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Berger Blog

Expanding the discussion of Generatonal issues in organizations, Leadership, and Individual & Professional Growth.

Pessimism or Optimism

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I was having a conversation with a close colleague today in which we were discussing the different ways people react to negative or bad things, even tragic things that happen. There are two ways (probably more) that people react to bad things. The pessimist will experience the event and think that the bad thing was bound to happen, wasn’t a big shock, and is something that will potentially – if not probably – happen again. The optimist will see that same negative event and see it as a fluke, a mistake, something that was unexpected and is unlikely to occur again. The pessimist, just the other. Martin Seligman, a psychology professor at University of Pennsylvania and former President of the American Psychological Association, who wrote, “Authentic Happiness,” and “Learned Optimism,” looks at optimism and pessimism at learned expectancies. That people either expect good things to happen, and to continue happening, while pessimists see the same thing about negative experiences.

To me, I see it as a leadership opportunity. Seligman contends that people can learn – or be led – to stances of either optimism or pessimism. In my mind, it’s about choosing optimism. If a leader is in a situation that has gone poorly or that others think is “jinxed,” then there’s a space to lead people through the pessimism and into an expectation of good things happening next, and next, and next and….
posted by Michael Berger, 10:39 PM

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