People will queue round the block to tell you how “dysfunctional” and “toxic” negativity is – they’ll drown you in studies that “prove” that negativity shortens your life, that it leads to obesity, diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and whatever the terrifyingly fatal illness du jour is.
People are wrong. Negativity isn’t “toxic.” It is not harmful to be a negative person – it is harmful, however, to be a dysfunctional person.
Negativity, in the right hands, and as a natural attitude, can be completely functional.
An example of functional negativity:
“I’m no good at sales – I’m more of an ideas person. A retail job wouldn’t really work for me.”
This is functional because it identifies a problem – the person’s lack of sales skills. It identifies an area of strength (ideas.) it acknowledges a truth, that a retail environment probably isn’t the best fit for this person, and leads to a logical process from which to come to a decision (the person has stated they are better at ideas, therefore, they can focus their energies on finding opportunities to be paid for having ideas – marketing, advertising, writing, creativity consultancy, business development, etc. The negativity of “I’m no good at sales” clears the mental decks of a whole raft of careers that would have been unfulfilling for this person, thus freeing space for them to play around with careers that might work out.
Dysfunctional negativity, on the other hand, is often directed at others in an attempt to shield the self; for example:
“You’ll never get a job if you go around thinking you’re better than everyone else.”
Actual meaning: “I don’t think I’m even as good as anyone else; I’m worried I won’t make progress with my own career because I don’t know how to talk about my achievements – I don’t want to sound arrogant, or make people think I’m boasting -and how dare X person not feel awkward and embarrassed about being out of work?”
Of course you’ll get a job by “thinking you’re better than everyone else” – that’s how getting jobs works. You go into an interview room, or you approach a recruiter or manager, with the attitude that “I’m the best person you’re going to stumble across this decade, pal” – and you tell them why you, rather than the other 10 folks waiting out there, or the other 110 sending speculative applications, should be given a salary, desk space, and the various perks of employment. They’re not going to give you those things because you’re a nice person who makes good cups of tea. (Unless being nice and making cups of tea are the actual main parts of the job.)
A negative (but functional) job seeker is in a good position: they’re quickly able to identify what they don’t want, what won’t work for them, and focus on what will be a good and rewarding fit. A positive job seeker, on the other hand, will yap on endlessly about how “committed to the process” they are, and how they’re “sure the right job is out there”, and all the happy-de-do-dahs they can “offer” a potential employer – and get overlooked, because you’re not meant to be “offering” employers anything – you’re meant to be telling them that they need the skills, knowledge and abilities you have, and that they’d be a damn fool to try and pretend they don’t. And you can only do that if you’ve first been negative enough to dismiss the things that don’t work for you.
Focus on your weaknesses – they’re the things you need to kick out the door.