“I’m just a realist.” You’ve probably either said or heard those words. They are offered as a simple, factual description. But as one who has said this more than once, I recognize that it’s a statement that is loaded with (mostly negative) meaning.
Consider the broader context that usually triggers this response. Someone else comes up with a great new idea for your church or ministry. Maybe others get excited and jump on the bandwagon. Then the fateful words are spoken: “I’m not trying to rain on the parade. I’m just a realist.” This is followed by an explanation of why the idea won’t work.
So let me offer some counsel to realists and to those who work with them. First for the realist. You (we) have good intentions. You’re trying to keep the organization from adopting a bad idea. But you need to know that dreamers perceive you as a killjoy. They don’t want to invite you to brainstorming meetings.
My encouragement to you (and to myself) is to be a “constructive realist.” If you’re going to point out the problems with an idea, then also offer solutions. Affirm the creativity of the brainstorm. Listen carefully before you speak.
What about those of you who love to brainstorm and are frustrated with the realists you work with? Keep in mind that their “realistic” responses are just as much a part of their wiring as dreaming is for you. Realize that they are speaking out of a desire to help the organization and that in doing so, they may keep you from making a bad decision.
You may also need to have a hard conversation with your realistic colleague. If they are unaware of how comments are being heard (by you or others), shouldn’t you give them the benefit of honest feedback? Can you help them make the shift to become a more constructive, positive realist?
One of the classic ways of describing this dilemma is that one person sees the glass as half empty and the other sees it as half full. While that is true, it’s also true that both want the contents of that glass to be used to maximize the impact of the ministry they serve. Hopefully that’s something that dreamers and realists can both agree on.
It’s easy to receive my blogs by email. Just sign-up on Feedburner by clicking here.