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What is Defensive Pessimism?

 , updated on August 17, 2016
Defensive pessimism is the deliberate use of pessimism as a strategy. Pessimism is often considered a character trait whereby some people are inherently more pessimistic than others. Defensive pessimism is the adoption of pessimism by individuals or teams that may be optimistic for a specific purpose such as validating a plan. For example, a sales team might review a sales pitch with a pessimistic view in order to anticipate customer objections.

Defensive Optimism

Pessimism is commonly viewed as defensive while optimism is viewed as offensive. This isn't necessarily true as optimism can also be used to reduce and avoid risks. For example, someone who is nervous about public speaking might reduce their risk of failure by focusing on their enthusiasm for a topic until it overrides their fears. In some cases, worrying about everything that could go wrong may only increase risks.
Overview: Defensive Pessimism
TypeProfessional Strategy
Business Strategy
DefinitionThe deliberate use of pessimism as a strategy.
ValuePrevents a team or individual from being blinded by optimism.
Risk reduction and avoidance.
Anticipating objections
Related ConceptsAnticipate Objections
Risk Reduction
Risk Avoidance
Optimism Bias
Professional Strategy


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