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Why Being Polite is Overrated

Negativity as a tactic is severely underrated.

We're taught to say something nice or not say something at all. After all, art is subjective so even if we don't like something, we don't have the right to critique, right?

But what do we do when the execution of the song is obviously flawed?

Sometimes, however, the best thing you give someone is a piping-hot plate of uncomfortable truth.

Steve Jobs was notorious for his outbursts of anger, but there's not a person in the world who wasn't affected by the inventions he shepherded into the market. He busted heads because he had to bust heads in order to release high quality products.

To make a masterpiece you must be willing to disagree.

Sometimes forcefully.

In fact, arguing and sarcasm make you more creative by forcing you to view concepts in a different light. Negativity improves group performance on idea-generation tasks. Competitive tasks improved creative output, (like Eric Clapton competing for the love of Layla). Moderate rule breaking is positively correlated with number of leadership roles. Anger at people who slacked off can make them up their effort (assuming they cared in the first place). Being angry also makes you process information more analytically. 

Being negative will also help you be more persuasive.
Negative reviewers were perceived as more intelligent, competent, and expert than positive reviewers, even when the content of the positive review was independently judged as being of higher quality and greater forcefulness.
However, don't storm into your next band practice, punch a hole in the wall, and go full-on Ghaddafi expecting magic to happen. A willingness to be negative when needed is different than oppressive pessimism. As anyone who has worked in a dictatorship of a job knows, pervasive criticism without positivity leads to learned helplessness. This is about the necessary balance between being emotionally sensitive to the needs of your band mates and being assertive enough to push through hard decisions to get serious work done.

Negativity is a tactic, to be used in some situations where strong analysis or action is needed. Breaking deadlocked negotiations, evaluating new opportunities, critiquing new songs: all of these are times where a little negativity might be needed to push through resistance. Trying to write new songs, improvising, networking or marketing: these activities would be much better served by positivity.

The next time you're stuck, step back and ask:

Should I be using a soft or firm touch to solve this problem?


*Shout out to Eric Barker at Barking Up The Wrong Tree, almost every link referenced was from research he found.

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