Stung more by your one-star reviews than delighted by your five-stars? Still obsessing over an unkind remark somebody made years ago though you've tons of good testimonials? Hate seeing unsubscribes from your list, even though you know you only want true followers there? You are not alone. This is the much documented “negative bias” alive and kicking in your creative business. But how can creativepreneurs neutralize negative bias?
Nastiness and negativity make a bigger impact on our brains than kindness and positivity. This well-known psychological pattern is called “the negativity bias” or “the negativity effect”.
Creativepreneurs need to be aware of its existence and how to neutralize negative bias.
It's probably the pattern that derails more dreams and ambitions than any other, especially if we're not aware of it.
This is not a personal personality trait, but a universal phenomenon, that can be detected at the earliest stage of the brain's information processing.
Negative emotions arouse the amygdala, the almond-shaped brain structure that Dr. Rick Hansen, founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, calls “the alarm bell of your brain.” The amygdala “uses about two-thirds of its neurons to look for bad news,” he says. “Once it sounds the alarm, negative events and experiences get quickly stored in memory, in contrast to positive events and experiences, which usually need to be held in awareness for a dozen or more seconds to transfer from short-term memory buffers to long-term storage.”
Our negative tendency looks after us well, in many ways, and evolved to keep us safe. Surviving, today as ever, depends on an ability to dodge danger. But thriving depends on an ability to see beyond it.
For creativepreneurs, the tendency is especially noteworthy. Some interesting new research is indicating that neutralizing negative bias doesn't mean balancing one negative thought with one positive. One marriage study showed we need five times as much positivity to counteract negative thoughts about a spouse, to avert a trip to the divorce courts.
It is the frequency of small positive acts that matters most, in a ratio of about five to one. Occasional big positives don't make the necessary impact on our brain to override the tilt to negativity. It's frequent small positive experiences that tip the scales in the direction of positive action and good forward momentum.
What does this mean for creativepreneurs?
1. Look for the good. Take active measures to notice the good in your business.
2. Practice often. At least a half dozen times a day. Your aim is that it will become a habit. As Charles Duhigg explains in The Power of Habit, “Small wins have enormous power and influence disproportionate to the accomplishments of the victories themselves.”
3. Give yourself ample time (at minimum thirty seconds) to fully observe and enjoy. By elongating our positive sensations, more neurons fire and wire together, embedding the experience in our memory and making it more likely to happen again.
4. Have a way to highlight it to yourself. Some people use a gratitude journal, others stick gold stars on their to-do list. Write it down. Again, it's a matter of making it stick, of changing your instinctive reaction.
5. Notice what you're noticing and listen to your self-talk. Be as encouraging and empowering of yourself as you would be to a dear friend.