The Power of Bad
John Tierney and Roy Baumeister
Negative feelings and experiences have a great effect on our personal lives and our society but once you understand the roots of it, it can be easily dealt with.
Negative experiences overrule positive ones
Research shows that positive results generally require a high positive to negative ratio where the positives experiences exceed the negative ones. A study conducted by the psychologist John Gottman on married couples recorded that those with an equal number of good and bad experiences often broke up and the happiest ones had a minimum of five positive experiences for every negative one. This 5-to-1 ratio, also known as Gottman Ratio works well to determine happiness in relationships and other contexts. Baumeister suggests that you follow a 4-to-1 approach to measure your personal growth that gives you a correct outlook of your general success and prevents minor problems from demotivating you.
Avoiding negatives- the remedy
You can be successful by focusing on reducing the negatives in your life. For long term results, rather than aiming to increase the positive experiences, it’s better to try and avoid the negative ones which tend to magnify over time. It is also noteworthy to remember that we have been wired to magnify the negative experiences, which helped us survive better. Rather than working towards being perfect, you can try to be simply “good enough” in your own lives by giving more importance to the basics than striving to exceed others’ expectations. Moreover, it’s better not to obsess over the flaws of others and to try to put things in context before instantly reacting to any situations.
Controlling the negative feelings
In the primal times, negative feelings like fear helped us stay conscious of predators, panic helped to react to threats and pain taught us what to avoid thus being valuable for survival. Though our lives are much advanced now, our brains still produce such tense feelings which mostly turn out helpful but can also sometimes deeply affect us. Nevertheless, such negative feelings can be controlled with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). To conquer the various unreasonable negative feelings, CBT utilises different techniques like practising deep breathing to calm down when panicking, meditating on inspiring mantras to develop positive thoughts and talking through a fear till it becomes less scary.
Criticism, a powerful tool
People often tend to retain the negative feedback or criticisms they receive than the positive ones. Sometimes giving tough feedback is unavoidable and essential for self betterment. One can employ the technique of treating criticism as a two-way conversation by engaging the receiver in the process to help them accept it better. By having the recipient receptive to the idea, they have a greater chance of adapting their habits.
The potency of negative incentives
In most cases, it’s been found out that the idea of punishment than the reward is more likely to change a person’s behaviour and motivate them as they generally strive to avoid negative effects than attaining positive ones. The threat of punishment or fear of losing something precious often act as incentives but if the penalties are too harsh, frequent and unavoidable then the eagerness to improve declines.
Negativity is infectious
Research has proven that the presence of even one negative person can affect the functioning of others as moods and attitudes are highly influential. Social support is when one is surrounded by positive people and social undermining is when they are surrounded by a pessimistic peer group. The effects of social undermining are found to be very powerful in workplaces and psychologist Terence Mitchell talks about three kinds of negative workers- one being “the jerk” who is mean or offensive, “the slacker” who evades responsibility and “the downer” who is constantly downcast. One must identify such people early and reduce their influence by moving or isolating them.
Avoiding negative reviews online
Since many people check online reviews before purchasing or availing services, it’s vital to evade negative comments as people often take them to be more truthful and believable than the positive ones. Adele Gutman, a professional in online reputation management suggests that setting reasonable expectations and revealing honest drawbacks is less likely to disappoint customers. Another technique is the Peak-End Rule of ensuring an enjoyable and satisfying experience at the end to leave a good impression.
The optimistic human
People are naturally more attracted to positive people and mostly tend to view the world through an optimistic lens. Our brains predominantly concentrate on happy memories than traumatic ones, known as the fading affect bias. The ability of individuals undergoing Post- Traumatic Growth (PTG) to let the bad memories fade and value the positives help them recover quickly.
The world isn’t falling apart
We do have pressing issues that require attention but at the same time shouldn’t forget to celebrate the positive advancements made. When we often compare the worst aspects of the present with the best of the past, called the record-store effect, the situation seems to be bad. The brain also takes considerable time to adjust to new situations but such negativity can be avoided by critically and skeptical analysing the content on media.
Negative ideas and feelings do have an unbalanced effect on us but can be overcome by sensibly identifying and tackling them.
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