A Space for Negatives, a Time to Feel Down
‘Champions build from their weaknesses. They are excited about knowing what they need to do better’
Insist on positive all the time? No thanks. Not useful and probably not possible. I always tell my players that an insistence on positives at all times is counter-productive. It just isn’t realistic and, in my opinion, it’s slightly unbalanced to expect players to forever think in a positive manner. You probably can’t do it and I definitely can’t. They most likely can’t either. It is not the way we as human beings are wired, nor is it the way we have evolved as a species.
We live in a word of self-help – books and podcasts that makes us feel bad when we’re not high fiving everyone as we walk down the street. We are surrounded by messages such as ‘There is no such thing as failure, there is only feedback.’ NO, there are plenty of examples of failure, some of which are fatal.
Interestingly I found a social psychologist called Joseph Forgas, who contends that negativity can help thinking and growth. He suggests that “Whereas positive mood seems to promote creativity, flexibility, cooperation and reliance on mental shortcuts, negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking, and paying greater attention to the external world.” I agree, Negative emotion is part of the mixed complexity of life that delivers success and excellence.
For example, players who want to develop their game need to spend a bit of time in the negative. They need an exact look at what isn’t good enough on their game and what needs to get better. They need to watch footage of themselves play and observe weaknesses and take note of the areas that need to improve. Your communication must be precise.
“Analyzing the weaknesses in your games may seem a little negative at times, maybe even frustrating, and I understand that you may feel a little deflated. But it actually offers an exciting opportunity to understand what you need to improve. And when we start working on those things you’ll get a real buzz from the improvement you’ll see and experience in your game. We gotta’ have that bit of pain first…but that’s only temporary.”
Players also need to be allowed space and time to be a little down after a poor performance. To my mind being a little negative following a defeat or a poor training session is a sign of desire to do well – to compete and to win. Spending a part of the evening reflecting and perhaps feeling a little low is fine provided that players wake the next morning intent on focusing on the positives and analyzing what needs to go better next time. A touch of negative emotion in the evening helps bring in a morning of optimism.
Allow your culture to flourish by tolerating negativity at times. Tell them it’s okay to feel down. But ask players to allocate time in the negative to evaluate their situation.
“We lost and you didn’t have one of your best games. You’re going to feel a little down tonight and that’s okay. Just make sure you get a pen and paper and note down what you feel you could have done better. I have some ideas but I want you to have a moment first, for yourself.”
Helping players develop optimism requires a toolbox that helps deliver on flexibility of thinking. Players must, to some extent, be able to move up and down the positive-negative scale in accordance to what is appropriate at the time. The next several articles will have ideas to assist you in helping them do this.