Deepening the Conversation

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On Eeyores

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I just read Gretchen Rubin’s (The Positivity Project) Tigger/Eeyore post, and I think the article, the concept, the insight, is fascinating, but there is one (central) point that rubs me wrong. Rubs me so wrong that I think it may make the whole scenario miss the point, and certainly it gave me enough pause to prevent me from sending it to my colleagues (oh boy are we ever in a Tigger/Eeyore scenario at MPOW! And we could certainly use some help thinking through our dynamics). What do you think? Does this resonate – either my read or Gretchen’s?

There is no doubt in this scenario Gretchen draws that I am an Eeyore. But here’s the thing: I’m not negative. Let me finish please! I’m critical, in the sense of ‘a critic’, performing critiques. When presented with something, I start tugging at it, holding it up to the light. Does it stand up? Where are the weak points? What needs strengthening? How can we tighten it up and make it better?

This is NOT negativity. This is me being invested in the project. If I think your project is irrelevant, unnecessary, or irredeemable, I won’t put my energy into it. This is my being supportive — and I want and expect the same from you. In fact, I find it deeply irritating and uncollegial if, when asked to be a stakeholder, you nod and smile and say it looks great. I need you and your stake, or I wouldn’t have asked. When I’m asked for input, I am showing you respect, support, and enthusiasm by giving feedback and adding my knowledge to your mix. Because you asked me.

I find the absence of this critical approach to be not ‘positive’ but ‘cheerleading’. Are any or all of these three dyads accurate? Tigger/Eeyore, Positive/Negative, Cheerleader/Critic? Do any more accurate phrases occur to you? Am I full of it?

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2 thoughts on “On Eeyores

  1. That post of hers is full of all of the assorted problems that come with dividing people (and the world) into halves, into dichotomies! It doesn’t matter what labels or descriptions one gives their chosen halves; they are wrong! There are people who resemble Tiggers and Eeyores to be sure, but there were more than 2 characters in Milne’s stories (even then, as if Milne described all of human behavior).

    I liked how she trotted out that “fake it till you make it” has research support and that if you act happy you’ll end up happy. Right! Because that is my job in life; to be happy; that was what UIUC paid me for.

    UIUC (and especially the Library) is so utterly and completely broken. Please do not take it on yourself to fix it. There are far more than 2 kinds of people in the Library just as there are far more than 2 kinds of problems with/in the Library.

    I could write pages about these issues and how people like her and there cheerful little divisions of the world are extremely damaging.

    But yes, there is a big difference between being negative and providing critique. Part of the problem is with the varied senses of esp. “critical” but also of “critique.”

  2. For some reason, this reminds me of the book Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelley. Rudy, did you and I already talk about this book? If you haven’t read it, check it out or see the website. Instead of this dichotomy between critics and cheerleaders, it offers a broader range of “roles” that contribute to the innovation of a workplace in different ways. Instead of thinking of yourself as an Eeyore, you could see yourself as the Anthropologist — an active, introspective, and – yes, sometimes critical – team player. :-)

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