Value your negatives with paradoxical thinking

Jim Blasingame

Paradox: When two things – like words, traits or situations – seem illogical and/or contradictory, but may in fact, be compatible, justified or true. 

It’s difficult to imagine anything more interesting about humans than how paradoxical we are. But that’s not a word most of us want to apply to ourselves because it sounds negative. And we sure don’t like dwelling on our negatives — not that we have any — just the good stuff.  Nevertheless, we humans are at once a sweet and sour, but always spicy Brunswick stew of paradoxes. 

My friend, Kelle Olwyler, co-author of “Paradoxical Thinking,” says we have aspects of our character that we may view as negative and, consequently, try to eliminate. But here’s a newsflash: Olwyler’s research shows that these negative aspects are, “actually just as essential to who we are as the parts of us that we like.”  Thus, the paradox. 

Olwyler says, “Eliminating our negatives is like trying to eliminate one side of a pendulum swing.” She defines paradoxical thinking as, “accepting and valuing our paradoxes, as well as understanding those of people with whom we associate. It’s the process of consciously bringing together our two paradoxical sides to achieve outstanding results.”  

Paradoxical thinking actually gives us permission to not hate our negatives. For example:

-  If you’re sometimes intense or aggressive, the other end of that pendulum swing manifests as an outgoing nature with a sense of urgency that contributes to success in sales.

-  Your family may think you’re a workaholic, while benefitting from the fruits of your efforts.

-  Some might consider you unorganized, but your creativity arises from regarding clutter differently than your more structured peers.

Focusing only on the negatives of our paradoxes is destructive. Conversely, paradoxical thinking allows us to recognize, value and manage both sides of the pendulum that makes up who we are.

Consider the three previous examples now with paradoxical thinking:

-  By recognizing your aggressive tendency, you can channel it appropriately and maximize that trait. 

-  By accepting that you like working, and indeed must work, you and your family can identify ways to accomplish your professional goals in concert with those of the family.

-  By assigning organization to someone else, you can focus more productively on things that you see but are “outside the box” for others. 

Finally, if you’re having trouble finding your negatives, when you see someone behaving in a way that’s really annoying, the chances are excellent they sometimes feel the same way about you. Ouch! This paradoxical thinking can sting a little. 

Humans are dimples and warts all rolled into the cutest bundles of annoyingly endearing characteristics. 

Write this on a rock.... Without the warts our dimples wouldn’t be so cute.

Jim Blasingame is the author of the award-winning book, “The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.”

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