5 Ways That Negativity Can Help You


Debbie Downer, Moaning Myrtle, Negative Nancy. Slang terms like this make us feel like we have to be constantly upbeat and positive if we want to live a good life. However, recent research suggests that some degree of negativity can be helpful and essential to our health and happiness. (See also: Pessimism Pays)

Here are five ways that negativity can work for you.

1. Find the Downside

We've all gone into situations thinking that they would be positive experiences only to have them quickly go south. Then, as we reflect on went wrong, we often realize that there were warning signs from the very beginning that we either didn't see or chose to ignore. Negativity can help us find and consider the downsides of a situation and that can save us from emotional and physical distress down the road by either saving us from getting involved in the situation or at least making us aware of what could go wrong if we move forward.

2. Save Money

If something seems too good to be true, that's a cue for us to dig deeper with eyes and ears wide open. This is especially important when we are considering a large purchase such as buying a home or a car. Our negativity forces us to ask probing questions so that we aren't fooled by slick marketing and clever PR tactics.

3. Save Time

Time is our greatest and scarcest resource. More than ever before, companies, organizations, and individuals compete for our time and attention. If you're not careful, your calendar could quickly fill up with to-do items that are less than enjoyable. Negativity can keep us from overcommitting our time and helps to focus us on what we truly want to do rather than feeling obligated to do things we don't want to do. (See also: 25 Ways to Take 5 Minutes for Yourself)

4. Stay Safe

Negativity and doubt have their place when it comes to our evolution.

Let's say the sky looks dark and threatening. An optimist might say, "That storm will blow over or be short-lived. No sense is changing my plans for the weather!" A pessimist may look at that same sky and say, "That looks dangerous. I better hold off on going out until the weather clears up." If that sky is indeed indicative of dangerous weather, it's best to take cover and wait for more information, especially with the wild weather we're having this year! Negativity can literally keep us out of harm's way.

5. Be Prepared

Pessimists tend to place a premium on preparation while optimists often wing it and believe everything will turn out fine in the end.

Sometimes going with the flow is fun and sometimes it leads to disaster. If you have an important job interview coming up, it's best to be prepared. Research the company, the role, and the people whom you'll meet with during the interview. Make sure you have examples to pull from your experience that align with the responsibilities of the job and a handful of questions to ask if the interviewers are open to them. Negativity can be a saving grace in high-pressure situations that require preparation and practice.

Despite the benefits, too much negativity can lead to depression and low self-esteem. It's important to balance our sense of optimism and negativity so that we can clearly see situations and people for what and who they really are. Using both outlooks helps us to evaluate opportunities for maximum personal benefit.

Are you a pessimist or an optimist? Which outlook has benefited you most, in terms of personal finance? Please share in comments!

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