Manage negative people with just one question

Tired of hearing people moan and complain? Overwhelmed by negativity? Then do something different! There is an easy way to switch someone’s attention away from all the grimness of life and towards the positive, to the aspects of life that they like and want more of.

People’s problems seem to have a special magnetism. We discuss them, analyse them, pull them apart, talk about them, write about them… and very rarely solve them.

To actually change things, we need to know what’s wanted, stated in positive terms. We need “a system that does A, B and C” not “a solution to problem Z”. We can’t place an order for “a kitchen that isn’t annoying”. And imagine going to the supermarket with a list of all the things you don’t want to eat!

Interestingly, switching someone’s attention to the positive is relatively simple. But it took the genius of David Grove, creator of Clean Language, to come up with a formula which works in almost all circumstances.

It requires some rapport between you and the person who’s complaining, and it does require you to have listened to the complaint sufficiently to acknowledge it, repeating it back in the person’s own words.

Then, simply ask: “And when <their problem, in their words>, what would you like to have happen?”

Listen to their answer. Have they actually said what they would like? If not, repeat the question: “And when <their problem, in their words>, what would you like to have happen?”
You can see a short video of this in action at

1 thought on “Manage negative people with just one question”

  1. Useful article, Judy – I *love* the image of going to the supermarket with a non-shopping list of what you don’t want!

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