Problem Solving: Try to Be Positively Negative
Reporters of Watergate Fame
1964 GOP Presidential Candidate
As the old song goes, "You've got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative and watch out for Mr. In Between."
Sounds good -- not the song (a great one) but the philosophy expressed in it.
But, there's a significant difference between being positive and being downright Pollyanna.
Extremism Should Be Avoided
With apologies to former U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater: Extremism in defense of liberty, or any other cause, is a vice -- and that includes being positive in the extreme.
People who make an effort to correct obvious problems are often considered to be negative -- especially by those whose ox is being gored.
So-called "whistleblowers" frequently are subjected to criticism for their sincere efforts to make right what often are serious wrongs. It's not uncommon for people to react by asking, "Why don't they just keep quiet and not stir up trouble?"
This is true even when the whistleblowers are referring to their co-workers or management in nuclear power plants where sloppy procedures and mismanagement could lead to disasters of astronomical proportions.
Having a positive attitude, when it's appropriate, is fine. But it can be taken to extremes. If you were in an office on the 30th floor of the Empire State Building and were informed of a significant fire elsewhere in the building, wouldn't it be wiser to find your way out as quickly as possible rather than to say, "Oh, I'm sure they'll put it out before it becomes more serious?"
Ignoring the obvious because it is negative or uncomfortable may be even worse: Indecision -- Mr. In Between -- should be avoided at all costs.
No Rose-colored Glasses
The truth is that, if we want improvements in our lives and in society, we must first understand where we are before we can arrive at where we want to be. It's important that we set aside the rose-colored glasses long enough to put the facts in perspective.
Newspaper people have long understood that a little cynicism is a healthy thing. If we are to get to the truth, the negative must always precede the positive -- or there won't be a positive.
Could we ever investigate official wrongdoing without first acknowledging that there may be culpability among our leaders?
How far could (Bob) Woodward and (Carl) Bernstein have gotten if they had taken the kind of "positive" outlook that says a president of the United States would never approve of such reckless and criminal actions as took place in the Watergate affair?
Norman Vincent Peale understood the power of positive thinking, and it is certainly true that keeping one's eye on the target can be powerful and effective when applied judiciously.
We should be positive when being positive is helpful and appropriate, but not when accentuating the positive ignores the negative -- and the cause we're trying to promote.
If there's trouble in a nuclear plant, or in the Pentagon, the White House or anywhere else, the thing to do is to acknowledge it and go about doing everything possible to correct it.
I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Aug. 23, 1997. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages.