The absence of negativity is not positivity, but it worked! Â –My VERY rare training experience with a positive outcome.
Negativity is expected on exam based courses
I often run accredited training courses where there are two exams in one week. Itâs daunting for most, terrifying for others. I often hear negative comments from one or a couple of frustrated and nervous delegates. For the most part they are venting their anxiety and once out, they can re-focus on whatâs important – getting through the course and actually learning something to help their careers. Even when an entire group âgoes negativeâ, itâs usually short lived and after a few words of encouragement from me, they return to a more positive space.
Negativity like Iâve never experienced it before
Not this week! I had 13 delegates sitting the course and Iâve never experienced such a negative, anxious energy permeating from an entire group like this before. It was palpable and in the end suffocating. They were all extremely nervous and began winding each other up. I donât believe it was intentional, but it definitely was effective. One person would start out sayingÂ how miserably they were going to fail the first exam, much less the second. And then another would pick up the banter with stories about how ârubbishâ they were at exams. Before I could blink, they were out doing each other on who was going to do the worst, as if this was now the new goal.
Normal negativity interventions failed
Attempt after attempt to intervene and ease their nerves and bring calm and rational thinking back to the group failed. I reassured them of what they already knew, of how the course was set up to help them, that I was here to help them. Nothing. It got worse.
A Negativity Moratorium
Eventually, enough was enough. I truly felt I had to resort to extreme measures. I held up the mirror, so to speak, to the whole group and showed them how their negative self-talk was affecting themselves and each other. To stop it, I imposed a ânegativity moratoriumâ. The next person to utter a word about failing would have to stand up in front of the room and give a five-minute presentation about how they were going to pass!
I know the absence of negativity is not positivity, but it worked! The fear of getting up and giving an impromptu presentation turned out to be greater than the desire to wallow in negativity. And with this stop-gap measure in place, where no one was verbally expressing negativity, a space was created â an opening for some positivity. Group discussionsÂ began to focus back on the course curriculum as the delegates stayed focused on the language they were using, specifically on blocking their negative language.
Neutrality conquers negativity and brings success
After a short period of neutrality, the mood was lighter. More and more of the delegates visibly began brightening up. They had been sucked into the negativity vortex and were now re-emerging. Though they werenât all into a place of positivity before that first exam, I can say the majority were there and the rest were at least neutral, albeit still nervous and anxious.
It wasnât until after the exam when they all passed (and with quite high marks, might I add) that they finally started to believe in themselves and their abilities. Iâm not saying that they only passed because I made them stop the negative self-talk, but I am saying that one or more of them could have easily talked themselves (and others) into failing if I hadnât stopped it.
Even though theÂ course ends with an exam, which tends to be a natural downer, this course ended on a very high note. The delegates bought and signed a thank you card and presented it to me along with a nice box of chocolates. And not one mention of failing!