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How to Overcome Your Brain's Fixation on Bad Things

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_overcome_your_brains_fixation_on_bad_things

greatergood.berkeley.edu

How to Overcome Your Brain's Fixation on Bad Things
Why can't we pull our attention away from a traffic accident or stop watching news about the latest viral outbreak? Why are we waylaid by criticism or unable to get past a minor snub from our best friend? That's our negativity bias.

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The negativity bias

The negativity bias

We have the tendency to give more weight in our minds to things that go wrong than to things that go right—so much so that just one negative event can hijack our minds in ways that can be detrimental to our work, relationships, health, and happiness.

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Findings about the negativity bias

  • We get upset when someone doesn't fulfill a promise. However, if they do more than promised, we're not grateful enough for it.
  • People learn more and faster from punishment and reward. If you have to pick one, negative feedback stimulates learning faster than positive feedback.

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The Negative Golden Rule

Do not do unto others what you do not want to be done unto you.

It is about focusing on eliminating the negative more than encouraging the positive. Because there’s abundant evidence from multiple sources that relationships are far more strongly affected by negative things than positive things.

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Delivering criticism

When giving feedback, it's a mistake to start by saying something good, followed by the criticism, and then wrap it up with some kind words. Most people would rather just get the bad news out of the way.

It is better to give the bad news first, then you can tell them what they're good at and let them know how they can improve.

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The “low-bad” diet

Journalists are more eager to focus on the bad news since it affects everyone - we're all afraid of dying or being hurt.

We need to disallow ourselves to always watch mass media news. Don't wallow in the coverage of a terrible event. Although awful, they're also isolated events. In contrast, people on social media tend to share more positive stories. Curate your news feed to include more positive stories.

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The “merchants of bad”

We can fall prey to manipulation through negativity bias. The media, politics and advertising are continually scaring us to get our attention.

People who consume the news should be aware that this is not necessarily an accurate view of the situation or even representative. They should become aware of how they're being manipulated and start using their rational brain to overcome their negativity bias.

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Compensate for negative things

It is good to take a moment to stop and consider the positive side of whatever happens to you. Life is really good in many ways, despite the constant predictions of doom. Go for a five-to-one ratio of good things to bad things to bring a bit of a correction on the negativity bias.

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Cognitive biases

...are common thinking errors that harm our rational decision-making.

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Optimism Bias

Is our tendency to overestimate the odds of our own success compared to other people's. 

Overly optimistic predictions can be dangerous, leading us to waste time and resources pursuing unrealistic goals. In the real world of business, things don't always work out for the best, and it serves us well to know when conditions are not on our side.

How to control the optimism bias

  • Be skeptical of your own rosy expectations for your work. 
  • Assume projects will be more difficult and more expensive than you initially think they will. 
  • Don't trust your good ideas to manifest through positive thinking - be ready to fight for them.
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The negativity bias

The negativity bias

The negativity bias happens when a person dwells on a negative event for a long period of time.

We tend to register negative stimuli every time we go through displeasing si...

Signs of the negativity bias

  • Negative experiences constantly cross your mind more than positive ones.
  • You tend to relive insults more than praise.
  • You're able to recall traumatic situations better than positive events.

What evolution shows about the negativity bias

Paying attention to your surroundings is a typical human behavior exhibiting the will to survive. Being wary about the environment that you are in will make you more likely to survive and pass on your genes.

However, in the current era having negativity bias actually inhibits us to think rationally and make the right decisions.

Negativity bias and feedback

Receiving criticism will always have a greater impact than receiving praise.

And we remember criticism strongly but inaccurately. But although criticism is more lik...

Criteria for effective feedback

  • The feedback provider is credible in the eyes of the feedback recipient;
  • The feedback provider is trusted by the feedback recipient;
  • The feedback is conveyed with good intentions;
  • The timing and circumstances of giving the feedback are appropriate;
  • The feedback is given in an interactive manner;
  • The feedback message is clear;
  • The feedback is helpful to recipient.