How Can You Handle a Pessimist?

If you are a pessimist, you’ll surely find something unpleasant about this article, and if you are an optimist, you’ll find something good. The term pessimist comes from the Latin pessimus which means “the worst”.

The kind of “imist” you are determines how likely you are in finding something negative or positive about absolutely anything.


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The empty part of the glass generally attracts more comments than the full one, but try to imagine yourself in a state of severe dehydration and you find a half full glass of water. That should certainly be a positive thing. Should…

If the car’s tank is half empty or full, you don’t go to the gas station knowing you can still drive a few hundred miles on that “empty”.

Regardless of the context, a pessimist’s attitude is counterproductive.

Many times, pessimists generalize: due to a report error, the pessimist reaches the conclusion that “I can never deliver a correct report”.

Every company has someone who thinks everything sucks. Starting with the job, the company and going further with the jackass bosses who treat them unfair or the fact that no project will be successful and in the end all customers are imbeciles. Such character can bring down the morale of the team really quick.

What can you do for better managing a pessimist:

  • Listen to what they say, it can be something precise and he/she may be right, you solve it and everything goes back to normal;
  • Search for the negativity source, it’s not always ill will;
  • If they are wrong, convey it in a friendly manner without sharing the same perspective. Try (if you can) to make a difference between the person and their behavior;
  • You can ask them that for every negative remarks they find (at least) the same number of positive ones;
  • Negativity can also be beneficial as long as it’s real and well-argued. Don’t reject it out of hand;
  • You can change their perspective. For example: instead of “we will never get financed for this project” you can suggest: “what can we do to get financed”;
  • Get more people to join the discussion. Not necessarily “let’s vote to shut the mouth of this cry baby”, more likely “if everyone’s says you are drunk, you have to go to sleep”. In very rare cases, one may be right while others are wrong. But if you build a reputation as a pessimist, your arguments will be regarded with skepticism;
  • You cannot control a negative behavior, but it’s your choice whether you put up to it. You can excuse yourself anytime, before the “ritual” begins;
  • Explain that you cannot demolish without building first. If you are a pessimist and keep criticizing, I expect a better alternative from your side;
  • Don’t pay attention when they walks on the same negativity road. If you don’t fight back, it will stop, ‘cause a pessimist always looks for validations;
  • Take into consideration the good aspects, for sure there are some, even if it’s just “a well-informed optimist”;
  • Don’t let them bring you down and cut off your enthusiasm, no matter the subject. Their favorite affirmation is “I told you it’s not OK!”;
  • Respect their choice to feel constantly discontented by something/someone, it’s (nearly) impossible to turn a pessimist into an optimist. We talk here about genes or even about depression;
  • If you are the superior of such employee, it’s your duty to highlight the impact of such behavior on the team. If the effect on the team is unacceptable, the collaboration must end. You have to make sure that such negative “element” won’t influence the performance of the whole team;
  • Don’t get involved in school yard type of fight;
  • Last but not least, choose to interact less with such person.

Don’t confuse a person who is pessimist from time to time, it happens to the best of us, but avoid pathological pessimists, who are toxic and bad for your health. Also, excessive optimism can be as harmful as permanent pessimism. Let’s just keep a balance, slightly tilted on the positive side, you know?!

Good luck succeeding!

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