My Holiday Mantra: Nothing Negative Said, Nothing Negative Received

by placers on November 24, 2021 in Outside Insights


I had a recent flashback that I’d like to share with you all. Ten years ago I was finishing up my first year as the head coach for the local high school team. We were in the locker room debriefing on the season.

We didn’t win many games that season, but we had made progress. Not just in skill level but mostly, in the level of trust we had for one another and the values that we had learned to share.

From the start of the season, the coaching staff had instilled a set of expectations for team conduct, attitude and behavior – and then let the team take it from there. Not your typical miss three practices and your benched kind of rules – but ones that gave our team the agency to learn, make mistakes and grow. The players bought in.

I’ve always appreciated sports metaphors in business. There’s the obvious success metrics: the scoreboard in sports and the bottom line in business. Yet, during those years coaching, my players and staff taught me that there is more to the game than the score. To truly have a shot at being great, teams need to believe in something bigger. To learn lessons that help them grow on and off the field. Business is much the same – employees need to truly identify with their company’s values and mission, or there won’t be much keeping them from walking out.

One of my favorite values that we instilled in my soccer team was: “Nothing negative said, nothing negative received.” To understand and appreciate this value, first answer this question: How do you receive or react to advice you are given? From your mom? From your boss? Or your great uncle at Thanksgiving dinner? You know, the one that won’t stop talking politics and won’t leave it at agreeing to disagree. If you’re like most humans, you get frustrated, a little defensive, and possibly shut down altogether.

Oftentimes we interpret these interactions with a negative lens. We believe that an unsolicited comment is intended to hurt not help. But, we have a choice with how we react in these situations. You always have that choice. Here’s the thing: you’re the only one that has to sit with your negative feelings. Chances are, whoever made you feel a certain way will have long forgotten about it while you’re still simmering with negative emotions. By choosing to react positively or neutrally, even when you really don’t want to, you’re protecting your precious energy.

So, next time you’re around your colleagues or your family as you gather around the Thanksgiving dinner this week, imagine that every comment came from a place of positive intent. You give people the benefit of the doubt. You don’t need to react in the heat of the moment. Most of the time, you won’t really need to react at all.

“Gratitude, help us see what is there instead of what isn’t.” — Annette Bridges

Recently, my leadership team at Placers adopted the “Nothing negative said, nothing negative received” value as one of a handful of stated ground rules for how we will behave and treat one another in meetings. Our team needs to get the most out of each other. We have to work together, challenge each other’s work, and hold each other accountable. Knowing our discussions are coming from a positive and trusting place will position my team to thrive.

“I like football. I find it’s an exciting strategic game. It’s a great way to avoid conversation with your family at Thanksgiving.”

— Craig Ferguson

If you’re new here, the intention of Outside Insights is to help people close the gap between where they are and where they want to be. It’s about discovering new ways of thinking and learning lessons that we can use in multiple facets of life. If living the spirit of “Nothing negative said, nothing negative received” helped my soccer team and my leadership team, perhaps it can help you too.

As you gather with family and friends this holiday season, I ask you to please remember two lessons:

1. You have a choice with how you react. Always.

2. Apply “Nothing negative said, nothing negative received” and choose to take something positive from challenging interactions.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and all of our Outside Insights community.

Until next time,


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