When I've had to train in difficult environments, I've heard participants denigrate their superiors and the culture of the organization. There's usually a lot of animosity that's piled up over the course of years, and employees don't mind expressing their dissent. In fact, dissent and disparagement are the course of conversation for the day--until I have to shut it down. I've found that some people just like to complain. They stay in problem mode. They say things like, "That'll never work. They don't listen to us. They don't do what we ask. We don't trust anything they say." And on and on it goes. They contribute only to the negative aspects of the feedback and rarely to anything that yields solutions. If solutions are proposed, they dismiss them with more derogatory talk. I've come to learn over the years in dealing with conflict that disagreements devolve into endless bickering because one or both parties do not know how to keep the conversation above board. In order to move past the problems, a change in the pattern of conversation has to occur.
Therefore, Rule #8 is to keep comments positive by resisting the urge to indulge in the negative. It is easy to get caught up in your own needs and point of view when opposing the other side. But if we don't look for ways to ultimately resolve our differences, the conflict goes round and round, never ending, and the problem stays alive. There are no ways to kill it because a lack of solutions is like providing oxygen to a fire. To douse that roaring flame, somebody has to pour positive power on the naysayer's putdowns.
Think about how disarming it would be to trade a rebuttal for a possibility. It could sound like:
Party 1: "We're just wasting our time completing this survey. They don't really care about what we think."
Party 2: "I realize nothing's improved in the past when you've been surveyed, but maybe this is the time when you'll finally be heard."
Party 1: "Why would this time be any different? They keep asking our opinion and nothing happens. Nothing changes."
Party 2: "But if you stop bringing up what needs to change, then it certainly won't. Your voice makes the difference."
Party 1: "My voice is just dust in the wind. You need to see the handwriting on the wall."
Party 2: "I do, and it reads: Help is on the way."
Party 1: "Keep dreaming."
Party 2: "I do, and that's why I have hope. You've obviously stopped dreaming because you paint this situation as hopeless. Is it? Are you?"
Party 1: "Certainly not! I never lose hope."
Party 2: "Then start speaking like you still have it."
Party 1: "Okay. I hope they'll finally respond with action after this survey."
Party 2: "Now, that's more like it."
It is hard for a person to stay negative when each negative comment is countered by a positive one. It requires more than one comeback comment, but every time you share possibilities and hope, you defeat the argument and not the party who's posing it. Try it.