Although most people don’t know the term ‘negativity bias’, they apply this approach to life on a daily basis.
Negativity bias means the human tendency to focus on negative experiences than positive ones.
For example, many people focus on the negative aspects of their childhood even if they had far more positive experiences. A customer support staff who has a single negative review or poor customer interaction is likely to feel down the whole day even if their other tickets were positive. Many people with low self-esteem focus on one negative comment even though they receive more praise than negativity.
Why are we biased towards negativity?
According to Roy Baumeister, our human survival mechanism wants us to avoid bad incidents and move towards safety and pleasure in life.
This served us well when we lived in unsafe times in history. Assuming that a dark shape on the road could be a snake helps us to avoid injury and death. Even today, feeling wary while you travel alone at night is helpful survival behavior.
However, when we apply this kind of unconscious thinking and behavior to modern-day life, we often lead less happy lives than we could.
While getting rejected for a job or losing a customer is an undeniably negative experience, it’s not reasonable to let such experiences paint the entire world as being without opportunities,
Now that we know the basics of what negativity bias is, let’s look at how to deal with it.
How to overcome negativity bias
In this section, we’ll break down ways to catch negativity bias in action so that we avoid unnecessary stressors and live our best lives.
Use negative feedback to grow
When you’re aware that you have an inbuilt bias towards negativity, it will help you approach criticism better.
For example, when your business gets a negative review from customers, or if your boss leaves you negative feedback, realize that your feelings are likely disproportionately down.
Be present to your feelings and review your feedback. You will find helpful points that you can use to improve your performance or grow your business. As you learn to deal with a range of feedback, you’ll deal with negativity with greater ease and equanimity.
Focus on positivity
Even though human beings have a natural tendency to lean towards bad memories over good ones, and worry about the future rather than stay hopeful, these are traits that we can overcome.
To do this, we need to bring the positive aspects of our lives to our attention. Some helpful habits that you can develop are:
- Counting your blessings before you go to sleep
- Expressing gratitude for things in your life as soon as you wake up
- Maintaining a gratitude journal
- Writing down positive events in your life and referring to them over time
However, it is critical that you carry out such practices daily. The key to overcoming your negativity bias is to compel your brain to be aware of positive experiences more than it remembers negative ones.
For example, whenever you feel like you dislike your coworker but still need to work with them, find four times as many positive traits as negative ones in your coworker. Since negativity can be strong, you need to counter it with a barrage of positivity.
Avoid negative news
As an audience, we’re largely aware that the media focuses on negative news rather than positive matters. And this is the case even when there are a lot of good changes taking place in our community and the world.
It is critical to curtail the kind of media we consume on a daily basis to avoid negativity bias. Some suggestions are:
- Avoid listening to the news or visiting social media more than once a day
- Instead of watching live media, you can opt n to receive updates through a publication’s email newsletter. Getting an overview of the news once a day or once a week is enough for most people
- Filter your social media feed by unfollowing people and businesses that don’t share healthy content
With such changes, you’ll automatically reduce your stress levels and also be able to notice that there are a lot of positives to life that you might not have noticed before.
We tend to feel and think negatively when we look back at the past or think about the future. Very often, when people think about the past, they recall unpleasant memories, regrets, and missed opportunities. And when anticipating the future, it’s common to hear people worry about their careers, relationships, and other matters.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to focus on the here and now. Whenever you find yourself remembering past events or spending too much time on things that haven’t happened, put a check on your thinking.
Doing this takes practice but consciously stopping your thoughts or taking long breaths will help disrupt unhelpful thinking.
It’s important to be aware of the phenomenon of negativity bias. It’s part of our survival mechanism that keeps us alive but is misplaced in the context of our current lives.
You have to remember that no matter how strong our negative feelings are, chances are that we’re overemphasizing negative things.
We can use the tips given in this post to become conscious of our tendency towards negative thoughts. And we can leverage these suggestions to find and celebrate positive and neutral aspects of our lives. We’ll also find the courage to take risks, develop healthy self-esteem, and otherwise grow in different ways.