Dont Make Me Laugh - Pessimism


Perhaps another term for playing ‘tight’ is Paul Stuart’s term ‘Defensive Pessimism’. In this piece, “The Ups of Being Down,” he describes…

  • There are benefits to being a pessimist, by which I mean someone who expects the worst possible outcome — not someone who promotes failure. Pessimists tend to be worriers, and worrying is not necessarily a bad thing. There is a significant difference between the pessimistic person who worries about the worst-case scenario but is willing to give it a shot, and the pessimist who assumes that they will fail, that it won’t work out, so they won’t bother. The latter is associated with “hopeless pessimism”, and with depression. In contrast, there is “defensive pessimism”, which is not related to depression and may even be a protective factor. Dr Julie Norem, professor of psychology at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, addresses the phenomenon in her book The Positive Power of Negative Thinking. ‘“If you are hopeless because you don’t see any way that you can do what you need or want to do, there’s no motivation to try. Defensive pessimists, on the other hand, can envision plenty of ways that things can go wrong, but they also have some confidence in the possibility that they can do what needs to be done as long as they’ve prepared for all the bad things that are likely. The most important thing about their strategy is that they keep trying, working, moving forward, despite their anxieties and worries.’”

Leaders harness positive mental attitude, Managers harness defensive pessimism (or the positive power of negative thinking).