Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Negative Thinking

"Negative information has a greater propensity to harm than positive information has to help...[P]eople are more likely to be speaking their minds when they are critical."

Shankar Vedantam,"The Oprah Effect, Washington Post, September 1, 2008

This article begins with the obvious question: Was Bill Clinton sincere in his praise of Barack Obama at the convention? What do do think?

The power of the negative cuts at least two ways. Unfortunately, negative political ads work. On the other hand, the power of negative thinking also is central to importance of revealing and analyzing mistakes as a prompt for social learning. In Nonprofit Leadership I talk about how "mistakes" have always got my attention more than when things went well. Maybe this is just a matter of risk adversity or avoiding harm, but I always felt that a focus on mistakes grounded my day-to-day work.

Howard Wolfson's "A Clintonite in Denver" is a mixed bag of honest talk about campaign mistakes that avoids the negative as well as over-the-top sincerity. "No one in recent history had attempted this kind of political conversation with 75,000 people. Barack Obama pulled it off." Surprisingly, his reflection works.

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