There are times in most projects when participants can simply be tired. That may be because of the complexity of the project, the depth of the challenge or simply the way that relationships have evolved over time. This situation can lead to a challenging time for practitioners as we try and find ways to engage with community members. This can sometimes be referred to as a cycle of negativity where repeated setbacks, perceived or otherwise, can lead to situation where the opportunity for meaningful engagement has almost completely broken down.

Often considered in the psychology practice, breaking the cycle of negativity can often come down to finding a few key considerations to change your circumstance. There are a lot of things we can learn from the recommendations that therapists give to patients to build their own personal resilience.

Here a few things you can do to break the cycle:

Recognise the triggers and plan to mitigate them:

When you are planning your program most practitioners consider sequencing of activity and where the likely risks will occur. By risks I mean where there are opportunities for conflict or disagreement between parties involved. These are also opportunities for negativity.

Understand the pattern:

By recognising the triggers you can understand the pattern. Plot the pattern of conflict if you note an increasing frequency of activity in the project where there is an increased likelihood of conflict, these are likely to be key trigger points for negative behaviour. The greater the frequency of conflict the higher the likelihood of a cycle of negativity.

Change your cycle:

Change the…

  • The catering
  • The environment
  • The people

Change is critical to beating a cycle of negativity. Start simple, try new things, change a location, a time, the catering, anything to break from past situations. It may not always be effective but it does give freedom for stakeholders to hit the reset button and start anew. Sometimes that is all that anybody needs to be able to meaningfully contribute.