I like negative people. They hate everything and everyone all the time and I much prefer them to excessively positive people, who flit with sickening zeal from enthusiasm to enthusiasm. Madly positive people are even worse when they've found religion, as they all do for a stint, and they become the insufferable messiah for every new cause.
Negative people are much more real. They don't need a homily of the day to inspire them to spring from the blocks each morning hating everyone, because hate, scorn and crankiness is their forfeit position; they don't need saccharine messages on their desk or Facebook ditties on love hearts to drive their mood further down at various times each day.
They're genuine, the real deal, and I'm drawn to them because of it. They're easy to identify because negativity has set their face into a scowl, and that expression changes only to a sneer or anger.
You'll find a high concentration of them among day-time pub drinkers, propping up the bar alone, and it was while visiting my shift-working father in pubs during the day as a late teenager that I first became aware that some men are imbued with an overwhelming animosity and rancour.
Negative people are much more real.
It was then and there that I learnt how to feed this negativity, almost as a sport. I still do it occasionally. First you have to brave the disdain to get close enough to them, then you say something negative. If there's a pollie on the telly you might say "you wouldn't feed any of the bastards would ya", if horses are racing on a screen "they're all f..... rigged", if there are women there "things haven't been the same since they let these f..... sheilas into the bar", and you can add that the worst is that they bring their fancy nancy boyfriends with them.
He swings his head to look at you, a glimmer of surprise on the scowl, and with the occasional prod you're in for a show. I love the mini explosions of anger, of disgust enunciated with such vehemence it's just short of spitting, and I marvel that the malice is all encompassing.
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If you keep feeding the exchange you'll learn that he sees himself as the victim of a conspiracy and injustice, and this usually means that he was sacked or that he's on the bottom rung at work. Another common and sad element is that they have no contact with their children, and it's not hard to see why.
The next time you see this fellow he'll be almost welcoming.
The other place I encountered negative people was at work, as I imagine does everyone who works with more than a handful of others. Not many over the decades but I remember each of them with a clarity not shared by my memories of the many positive people I've worked with.
Two or three of my negative workmates in newspapers and other workplaces over 40 or so years had no apparent reason for their general loathing. They had good jobs, their work was good, and they detested their employers, their jobs, their bosses and the people they worked with, and everything was an infliction. Everyone was at least mildly intimidated by them.
In later life a couple were diagnosed as having depression and, ironically, became cheerful. Years after I'd worked with them it was disconcerting to be greeted enthusiastically at a chance meeting with these people. The face and the voice didn't match the new humour and I'd have been much more comfortable shaking hands with their old grimacing self.
Most of my negative workmates in various workplaces, however, gave a reason for the rancour that accompanied them as a private cloud, and it was always much the same reason. That was they had been unfairly prevented from reaching senior positions, that their value was not appreciated.
More than a couple would growl that they were not paid what they were worth because they were not the boss's favourite, and they'd glare at me as they said it.
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They were what we described at the time as knockers, ridiculing every initiative and most of their workmates.
It always interested me that most had a number of conversation devices to make it appear that the other person in the exchange agreed with them, to draw others in as complicit. Sometimes this interpretation of complicity would be used later as supporting evidence for their vitriol.
Some of them had a small number of disciples, and these were the workmates they didn't ridicule, but for the most part these maliciously negative people were classified as essential communication only or shunned. They were all men, by the way.
I can imagine that if and when negative people became dominant the suppression of willingness and creativity could destroy the business, and we've all felt the force that marks us as an imposition when we enter some businesses as a customer.
Because newspapers and other media are ruled by deadlines negativity can be a particular problem, and that was most obvious during and in the aftermath of industrial dispute. At those times negativity was a fog of difficulty and the product of our work seemed to lack the flair of the happy times.
I used to marvel that a workplace and my own output could be so changed by the invisible force that is low morale. It was always a relief when it lifted.
And maybe that's the value of negative workers, at least when they're in marked minority. Just as we can't have wealth without poverty, happiness without sadness, maybe we need the whingers and the knockers and the haters to give us an appreciation of appreciation.
So be kind to a negative person today. They'll hate you for it.
- Jeff Corbett writes for the Newcastle Herald. Contact the writer: email@example.com
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