Sunday, January 13, 2013

Your Negativity Bias Is Natural, But Good Is Expected


All of us have a natural negativity bias.  It's a primal instinct.  We internalize a bad experience for future reference to avoid it.  It's why the news is so successful in reporting all the bad events of the day, and why negative politics activate us and keep up engaged.  They're giving us what we want.  It's also why statistically you will tell a minimum of 7 people (some research says up to 20) about your bad restaurant experience, but only tell 3 people if it was good.  Bad emotions, bad parents and bad feedback have more impact than good. We're more motivated to avoid bad self-definitions than to pursue good ones.  It's also why it takes five positive messages to overcome one negative.

Good is expected. 

Practice Positive Pump
Athletes are great examples of "positive pump."  They have consistent "can-do" messages and goals. They're forward-focused on where they're going and what they're going to achieve. What outcomes do you want for yourself? What impact do you want to have on others?

To move forward it's important to focus on where you're going and how you want it to be, versus looking to the past for references of where you have been.
 
A) Practice your "positive pump" consistently every day.  Give yourself at least five positive messages and, when you have a problem or conflict, ask yourself "What if the opposite were true?"  
B) Describe the positive behaviors you want from employees, peers, or friends before using the bad ones as examples to avoid. Don't use bad examples of the past to define good experiences you want to have in the future.

C) End each day with gratitude.  As some point sit for one minute and reflect, or write down at least 1 to 5 great things that happened today.  Writing is more effective.  You could put it into a journal for easy reference, get a large glass jar so you have a visual reminder.  Then, pick a day, maybe around the holidays, or when you're feeling down, to open the jar and remind yourself of all the things for which you're grateful.

Our environment, language, friends and decisions will reinforce our messages and beliefs. Our body reflects the contents of our mind.  If our mind is peaceful, so is our body.  Peace is the gift we pass along to others.  When we are activated, negative, judgmental or cluttered it is not helpful to us or others.  It will continue the cycle of negativity bias.

-Ken Sergi

(c) 2013 Ken Sergi