A pertinent negative is a term usually used in a medical situation, in which medical personnel makes documentation about things that have been checked from a patient but the patient doesn’t have it. In medical documentation, usually, the personnel has to write in detail about the things that have been checked from a patient, even if the patient doesn’t have them.

For example, if a personnel tried to check for a patient’s Covid-19 symptoms, and she found out that there is coughing but no other symptom, she should not write “only coughing, but no other symptom” in the documentation. Instead, she should write in detail about things she checked, such as “no fever, no headache, no anosmia, heart rate in a regular rhythm, etc.”, which all are important signs for making a diagnosis.

The term can be used in many other situations as pertinent negative usually is the sign of expertise or deep understanding about a situation. The medical personnel understands that giving detailed documentation, even writing those which don’t exist, can lead to better diagnosis, and it can save a life. This report will discuss how this concept can be very useful in social interaction, especially in an organizational setting.

The benefits of pertinent negative in human interaction

Expanding the term, the pertinent negative is seen as the absence of an object, event, or behavior, which can help us in identifying a situation (Herman, 2016). If an infant doesn’t cry for a long period of time, a knowledgeable mother may notice that something is wrong. If a diligent friend of yours suddenly absent from class without any news, you begin to ask if there is something wrong. It is a sign that you are knowledgeable about the behavior of your friend.

Identifying the pertinent negative helps give our observations more specificity (Herman, 2016). Instead of examining the literal situation of “the baby doesn’t cry” and “the friend doesn’t show up”, we look deeper to see the specific reason for the situation. This attitude in observing situations will not only give us the bigger picture but also improve our decision-making.

Using the broader view of things in improving our relationships with others

Learning to see the things we don’t see can improve our understanding, not only of the situation but also of the subjects. Knowing the broader view of the situation, we can be more considerate to assess and judge others. It can also sharpen our empathy for others we know. Having a deeper understanding and empathy for others around us will improve our relationship with them.

Using pertinent negative in understanding employee behaviors and actions

The best way to grow our attunement to the pertinent negative is to make it a habit of asking what we don’t notice during team collaborations (Burkus, 2016). The habit will not only give you a better view of the situations in the team but also provide you with a much better understanding of the individuals on the team. Usually, the strange behavior of an employee can be explained by something we can not see directly. Here again, it is crucial to create an open communication culture and mutual respect between the individuals in the team to practice the habit.

Improving our own attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors using pertinent negative.

Terry Prince, an organizational consultant, recommended people to examine project planning from a “missing perspective” (Herman, 2016). He encourages questions, such as What should we not include? who do we not need? When are we not doing this? Where are we not going? This pertinent negative approach will sharpen our thinking and broaden our view, which will lead to a better perception and attitude we may possess. Aside from seeing the clear view in front of us, we should also expand our view to the hidden area that may hold the key to the real reason behind the obvious.


Burkus, D. (2016, September 14). How to notice what you can’t see. Inc. https://www.inc.com/david-burkus/how-to-notice-what-you-cant-see.html

Herman, A. E. (2016). Visual Intelligence: Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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