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Problem Solving: Try to Be Positively Negative

Updated on December 7, 2017
William F. Torpey profile image

Graduated NYU in 1964. Worked in NYC for 2 years in public relations then as reporter and editor before retiring from The Hour newspaper.

Reporters of Watergate Fame

Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward

1964 GOP Presidential Candidate

U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater: "I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." From his acceptance speech at the 1964 Republican Convention.
U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater: "I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." From his acceptance speech at the 1964 Republican Convention.

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.

Whistleblowers Criticized

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.

Pollyanna

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?

Watergate

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.

Should Whistleblowers Be Accorded Greater Protection From Retribution?

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    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I would be a golfer, not a writer, if everyone had your wisdom, JamaGenee.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Perhaps because I'm a genealogist, I've developed a sixth sense for what's true and what's not and have no problem using the internet to fact-check. But not everyone does. They easily could (and should) but *choose* not to. Sad.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      It's becoming more and more difficult to find objective news these days, JamaGenee. More and more people are getting their "news" via the Internet. There's more opinion out there than objective facts. Many of the sources we see are, unfortunately, unfair and unbalanced. If we're not careful we can easily be bamboozled.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      7 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thank you, Peggy W. Too often we jump to conclusions and take the easy way out instead of digging a little deeper to come up with the best solution to problems. A positive attitude, coupled with some common sense, usually will lead the way to success.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      We could certainly use a Woodward and Bernstein today. I'm sure there are some out there with W&B's determination and passion to follow a story *wherever* it leads, but such stories get buried because more readers and viewers care about the color of Paris Hilton's nail polish than corrupt corporations and politicians (which these days are one and the same). ;D

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Excellent and balanced hub William. Good point about the 10 Commandments being written in that form (from G-Ma Johnson). Sometimes we have to wade through some muck to discover the source of a problem and then address it. But if we do it with a positive outlook, the journey will be sweeter.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      You are too kind, Lisa. Thanks. Norman Vincent Peale was right. Thanks for commenting.

    • lisadpreston profile image

      lisadpreston 

      8 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

      Another great hub by my "Now favorite writer".Being positive in my opinion is an act of doing, not living on blind faith. One of my favorite books is by Norman Vincent Peale, called, How to stop worrying and start living. He says, "When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade. To me, that is saying, don't just sit there and suck on the lemon, but do some action and turn that sour lemon into a great tasting drink, which requires us to get off our butts and do something to turn a negative into a positive.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thank you, compu-srmart. I wish I had your computer smarts!

    • compu-smart profile image

      Compu-Smart 

      10 years ago from London UK

      Another nuggot of great words William..You have given me lots to think about.!

      good job!.

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I appreciate your kind words, Donna, and I'm glad you like it.

    • donnaleemason profile image

      donnaleemason 

      10 years ago from North Dakota, USA

      It's a great hub. Masterfully written and true.

      Donna

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Rhym O'Reison, It's true that fear of ridicule and retaliation is a potent factor in many people's reluctance to speak out against wrongdoing or tyranny. It's sure a lot more comfortable to go along with the crowd, to be a "yes" man (or woman.)

      G-Ma Johnson, it's never easy to make waves while others a sailing along comfortably. The Commandments all begin with "Thou Shalt Not" which I contend is a negative construction designed to bring about positive behavior.

      Thank you both for your insightful comments.

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 

      10 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      yes it is all so easy to write..and to agree..and to want things to work..but it is even harder to accomplish these things...we all see things in our own minds way..we all think we see it best....or at least totally understand the way it could be..should be...but it is not an easy task to be negative and positive and do it all peacefully..without the hurt or rebuttals or believing...I still say THE Ten Commandments Rule...G-Ma :o) hugs

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thanks for the nice comment, stephhicks68.

    • Rhym O'Reison profile image

      Rhym O'Reison 

      10 years ago from Crowley, Tx

      Indiscision could be prompted by fear of men. Fear of rejection, ridicule, retaliation. Sometimes we have to stand up for what is right (positive) even if it means showing up the wrongs. Thanks for the thought-provoking hub.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 

      10 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Yes - I agree. State the negative, if it will be helpful and useful! Most definitely. You can't ignore it, because it will not go away! :-)

    • William F. Torpey profile imageAUTHOR

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thank you very much for the positive comments, Bonnie Ramsey and pjdscott. Nothing negative there!

    • pjdscott profile image

      pjdscott 

      10 years ago from Durham, UK

      Beautifully balanced writing as usual, William! I agree - a large dose of cynicism is a healthy thing when applied in the correct manner. History tells us that - you cited several examples.

    • Bonnie Ramsey profile image

      Bonnie Ramsey 

      10 years ago from United States

      Hi, William!

      I agree with not ignoring the negative. If we ignore it, we will not learn from it. I am one of the people who teaches positive thinking but I also teach learning from the negatives and there is no way to do that if you totally ignore it. Great hub!

      Bonnie

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