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Steve Marr Blog

Steve Marr's contributions

Apr 17

Negative arguments

Posted by: Steve Marr

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Most of us have been in meetings where one or more ignite fires with their criticism without offering any solutions. In politics there’s an old saying, “You can’t beat something with nothing.”  When I encounter negativity, I try to encourage the person to offer a better alternative. Likewise when anyone believes that a course of action is unwise, that person should focus on a better solution rather than just firing arrows.


In my consulting I frequently encounter those who reject my suggestions. When they decide to do something different and follow another plan, I usually don’t have a problem with their decision unless they reject my ideas and suggestions while failing to adopt another plan. In these situations I ask the client what different course of action they have in mind for increasing sales, reducing expenses or taking some other action.  My client will continue to struggle until they embrace a plan.

When I’m in meetings and encounter presentations I don’t agree with, I try to focus on a better solution rather than merely sharing my negative reaction with the presenter. If I’m unable to come up with a better solution, I need to reconsider my position because the presented solution may be the best option. 

The key part of leadership is helping the group understand and accept the best path to move forward.  Often bringing the group in on formulating that plan is a good step; however, there needs to be some direction in this process. I was in a strategic planning session with senior management and increasing revenue was the key point of discussion.  Members presented several ideas receiving mostly negative feedback.  I decided to challenge the group to stop giving negative feedback on any revenue increasing idea unless the person could suggest a more effective alternative.  This reduced the negative discussion and forced participants to look for positive ideas or remain quiet.      

In some instances with organizations I work with, I have presented a plan which may or may not be the best option. Often these plans have been adopted, partly because no one else offered a better alternative. My perspective is that a mediocre or poor plan is better than no plan.  At least with a feeble plan one is able to alter and adjust what is not working. Where there is no plan for change, there really isn’t much you can do except drift with present currents no matter how much you dislike them. 

King Solomon wrote, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5, ESV) The effort to think through and make a plan takes time and energy. Solomon taught that diligent plans lead to success while hasty efforts or no effort will lead to disaster.

I have learned that when I don’t like a plan or idea, I try to think through to a better option because, as the old political slogan reminds us, “You can’t beat something with nothing.”

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