Everyone has, or will, come across a Negative Nelly. This is the person who will constantly complain about everything: their colleagues, their employer, their workload, their environment. Their attitude may be a product of circumstances, or it may just be how they are as a person. Either way, they are a difficult delegate to have on any training session, so here are some strategies that we’ve found useful when we’ve had Nelly on our course:
1. Allow them the time to give their view, but not to take over. All attendees deserve the opportunity to have their views aired, even if they are negative. Giving them the time to do this can allow them to get it off their chest, feel listened too and allow them to then engage with the rest of the day. It is important not to let them rant though as this can have a negative impact on the wider group, not to mention take up lots of valuable time.
2. Objectify the Comments Made. As the facilitator, you need to try and neutralise what Negative Nelly is saying. What is the underlying point that the individual is trying to make? Try and identify what this is this and put it back to the wider group in more positive or neutral terms. You may find that although they haven’t put it well, that Nelly has a good point to make!
3. Challenge. For the benefit of the rest of the group, it is important to challenge the negative views which are held, but again, without allowing things to get off topic or take up too much time. From experience, asking the wider group what they think can be a really helpful way to do this. If they agree with Nelly then it can air out issues, let you tackle them and allow everyone to move on, for the duration of the session at least. If they don’t agree with Nelly, then hearing their colleagues/peers views can sometimes be enough to stop them being so negative for the rest of the session.
4. Increase the amount of group work and ensure you move the groups around frequently. Negative people can be very draining on those around them, and can really impact the mood of the whole group. Try to dilute their influence by utilising small group work to minimise the time other delegates are exposed to them. Having delegates work in different groups throughout the session will also help this.
5. Speak to them directly. If you have tried all of the other strategies and it’s just not making a difference, or if the situation is having a big impact on the session overall, then you may want to talk to them directly about the impact of their behaviour/attitude.
Never an easy conversation, it’s obviously best to do this away from the rest of the group. Grabbing them for 5mins at the start of a break is usually a good time as it lets you have a chat then gives them some time to think about things before starting back.
Think about what you are going to say before you start the conversation, the last thing you want to do it make it worse! Try “I’ve noticed you don’t seem to be enjoying the session” or “You don’t seem to be happy being here today”.
These are just some of the options available to you and you can try one or more of these with the same delegate(s) in the same session. What other techniques have you tried to tackle your own Negative Nelly’s?