Three Steps to Overcoming Your Negativity Bias
Posted by: Alex Linley
We’re often asked at Capp how we can help managers to focus more on the positive and overcome the inherent negativity bias that exists in all of us. Indeed, this came in as a specific request following my post “Helping Managers Focus on the Positive“, so I’m pleased to take this opportunity now to share three simple things that we can all do to help us overcome our negativity bias:
1. Catch yourself being negative: The first and foremost trick in overcoming negativity bias is to recognise that it exists in the first place. When we appreciate this, we can start to do something about it. So learn to pause and ask yourself “Is this just my negativity bias at work again?” when you find yourself being critical about something. Recognise if there are particular activities, situations, or people that bring out this negativity bias more than others. When you catch yourself noticing this, you’ve taken the first step to being able to do something about it.
2. Think volume control, not on/off switch: Controlling your negativity bias isn’t about simply switching it off – after all, the negativity bias evolved in all of us because it serves an important purpose in survival. Instead of thinking about switching it off, think instead of your negativity bias as being on a volume control. You can turn it up, or you can turn it down. It will always be there for you, but maybe you don’t need to let it be there so much, or so much of the time.
3. Be mindful of your body state: Being mindful of your physiology will also play a surprisingly important role in how you can manage your negativity bias. If you are tired, stressed, or even just glucose-depleted, you have less willpower to be able to control your thoughts and decisions, so your negativity bias will gain the upper hand. Counter this by being mindful of how you feel in your body, and taking steps to stay in balance and in tune. When you recognise that you are tired, or stressed, or in need of increasing your blood sugar, recognise that your decisions won’t be optimal, so you will need to work even harder to make the right ones (and ideally to address the core causes of this imbalance in the first place – rest, recuperation, and glucose boosts!).
By following these three steps, you’ll find that you are able to gain much more control over what you think and why you think it. These steps won’t help you switch your negativity bias off (and hopefully you don’t want to!), but they will help you to use it in the right way, at the right time, and to the right amount.
Let us know how you get on with using these steps in practice, by sharing your Comments on The Capp Blog as below.