5 Ways to Overcome Negativity Bias

Kelly Stewart
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Posted: July 11, 2022

Practicing Appreciative Inquiry means we regularly inquire about what’s working while not ignoring the negative.

By engaging with others, we discover the exquisite details that reveal what is inspiring, useful, advantageous, or in many other ways valuable about people and organizations. Still, Appreciative Inquiry does not ignore the negative or the negativity bias humans have.

Today people in organizations are facing exponential and constant change. Because change can be unwelcome, people might become more inclined to dwell on those events, which among other things, affects decision-making.

Unpleasant situations or traumatic events still have a greater effect on humans than the ones that inspire creativity, exploration, broader self- and world views, along with other positive emotions. This innate negativity bias, associated with the pain of losing, is widely regarded as more powerful than the pleasure of having or gaining.

How might we overcome negativity bias?

Here are five ideas for improving a response to news or events that are unwelcome, evening jarring, that you might find helpful for yourself, your clients, or colleagues:

  1. Practice both/and thinking – things can be both bad now and get better.
  2. Inquire into what positive news, research, or insights are available on the same subject. Start with these resources.
  3. Work backwards. If you’re feeling anger and resentment in the current moment, what led to those feelings? Could it be negativity bias in action?
  4. Imagine the future you want and paint a very vivid picture of what it looks like in your mind.
  5. Have generative conversations with people who share your vision for the future.

Doing any of the above is likely to help reduce the stress associated with the negativity instinct. This is important because when we feel better, we make better decisions and take more positive and proactive steps toward creating the future we want.

Banner Photo by Dorota Dylka on Unsplash

 

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