Last week’s blog, See the Good and Turn Around a Bad Deal prompted so many interesting comments that I decided to look a little deeper into the power that bad exerts over good in our lives.
Bad events create more emotion than good ones, and so we remember them more vividly and learn from them more quickly. Sadly, punishment teaches more effectively than reward. In our close relationships, destructive actions are more powerful than constructive ones, negative communications more influential than positive ones and conflict more lasting than harmony.
A bad reputation is easy to acquire but hard to shed. We react more to negative feedback from associates than we do from support. When we meet someone for the first time, any bad impression can overwhelm the good ones. We tend to see people who say negative things as smarter than those who are positive. Thus, we are more likely to give greater weight to critical reviews. The negative bias even finds expression in our language: we have a word for trauma, but not for its opposite.
In the Review of General Psychology, Case Western Reserve University researchers Baumeister and Bratslavsky sum up the power of bad over good this way: “Thus, the greater impact of bad than good is extremely pervasive. It is found in both cognition and motivation; in both inner, intrapsychic processes and in interpersonal ones; in connection with decisions about the future and to a limited extent with memories of the past; and in animal learning, complex human information processing, and emotional responses.”
Appreciative Inquiry can shift the focus from what’s the problem to what’s working by helping overcome a negative bias so hard-wired into our brains that we’re often not even aware of it.
“What keeps me awake at night is the negativity at my organization,” opined Leslie. By all reports, Leslie has been wildly successful in her job as the CEO of a large nonprofit; but despite turning around large financial losses, and experiencing many programmatic and fundraising wins, the negativity of her managers seems intransigent. “I feel like I have been beaten up! No matter what I do, who comes or goes, the negativity never goes away.”
Leslie decided that she would “divide and conquer.” “I am going to take each of my managers to coffee and see if I can’t clear some of this up.” What a fabulous idea!
I asked her if before she met with each individual that she take a few moments and make a mental check list of the things that she appreciated about each one. We also decided that she would ask each individual what was hard about his job and determine if there was any way that Leslie could help.
When Leslie came in for her coaching session this week I was anxious to hear how it went with her managers. “Great!” What was great about it? Each individual had responded well to the positive feedback that Leslie was able to give them. But more importantly, they had helped Leslie understand where they were stuck and how they were perceiving actions of hers in ways that she had not intended or understood.
Sounds so easy doesn’t it? Trust me, it wasn’t!
Turning around the bad wasn’t automatic for Leslie, in fact it was the opposite. Leslie was angry that her managers didn’t recognize all that she had done for them. Part of her even felt like giving them a piece of her mind. It took presence of mind, intentionality and courage to turn around this bad deal; but so worth it!
We’ve all been there. If you would you like to be coached on how to become more positive in your experiences with others contact Dr. Lynn K. Jones for a free coaching session.
Coaching Questions to Ask Yourself
Think about the issues that are annoying you the most. If you look, what can you see that is positive about these issues? Think about times in your life when you were most successful. What can you apply from this time to support current successes?
P.S. Thanks in advance to anyone who chooses to share their stories of seeing things from the positive or who forwards the link to this blog to friends!
Dr. Lynn K. Jones is a Board Certified Coach and an Advanced Certified Personal and Executive Coach based in Santa Barbara, California and a sought after coach and consultant for organizations and individuals across the US. Her doctoral work completed at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University concerned organizational culture; she coaches, consults and trains organizations on what they need to do to create organizational cultures that are aligned with their vision and values using a process of Appreciative Inquiry. She coaches individuals on achieving their reflected best selves. A MSW@USC faculty member, Dr. Lynn K. Jones, MSW, DSW, CSWM, teaches Human Behavior and Social Environment and Leadership to social work students at the University of Southern California.
BCC Board Certified Coach #1487