If bad is stronger than good what can we do about it?

I’ve been reading an old article that remains extremely interesting – it is an academic paper dating back to 2001 titled Bad Is Stronger Than Good.

The authors note that:

“The greater power of bad events over good ones is found in everyday events, major life events (e.g., trauma), close relationship outcomes, social network patterns, interpersonal interactions, and learning processes.

… Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones. “

This has profound importance for all of our interactions with family, co-workers, customers, and just about anyone we meet. According to the article a ratio of five goods to every bad is required to minimise the effects of the bad.

From a customer service perspective this means that for every negative impression it is five times harder to make a good impression. Applying some sort of cost/benefit analysis to that idea would likely show that bad impressions are expensive to correct.

The research indicated that “positive independent variables affected positive dependent variables, whereas negative independent variables affected negative dependent variables” or “more simply, good affects good, whereas bad affects both bad and good.”

The authors were even able to put a number on the impact:

“Good can overcome bad by force of numbers. To maximize the power of good, these numbers must be increased. This can be done by creating more goods. For example, in a romantic relationship each partner can make an effort to be nice to the other consistently. Such small acts of kindness are important for combating the bads that will typically occur. Indeed, if Gottman (1994) is correct, the ratio should be at least five goods for every bad.”

This is fascinating stuff and real food for thought. When I start to put it together with some of the other ideas that came up at Social Innovation BarCamp recently there are very good grounds to change thinking, behaviour and actions.

Article reference: Bad Is Stronger Than Good by Roy F. Baumeister, Ellen Bratslavsky, Catrin Finkenauer, and Kathleen D. Vohs; Review of General Psychology 2001. Vol. 5. No. 4. 323-370, download PDF here

Hard work beats talent

I have seen many young, fit, intelligent people with a fine education, sound values and good family behind them. But they do not realise that what they make of them every day from now is up to them.

Many people with those advantages do nothing with their lives. It is up to each of us to choose every day to do something with our life. You do not need a grand plan – very few people actually have these.

Whatever it is you do, you need to work hard at it and be enthusiastic. Find some things in your life that you have a passion for, and don’t forget, that on your deathbed, you will never wish to have spent more time at work.

“Press on: nothing in the world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
Calvin Coolidge (1872 – 1933)

Olympics – two sides of the same coin …

Picture two different women competing in the Australian team at the recent Athens Olympics.

The first had the misfortune to injure herself a few weeks prior to competition. She had surgery & vowed to compete in the games. Jan Pitman ran in the 400m hurdles at the Games, but she came 5th largely due to her recent knee surgery. Her response to the disappointment? ”

“I don’t need to make any excuses,” she said. “Those girls were great out there today and they were better than me on the day, so I can only say I’ll have to come back hungry for next year.” (See smiggens)

Contrast this with another woman, young and talented and part of a team of eight. She had been allowed to join the team in spite of curious incidents in her past. She was apparently in good form and excellent fitness going into the race. Her main job was to keep rowing until the race finished. Instead, Sally Robins lay back with a quarter of the race to go and dropped her oar about 100m from the finish line.

As noted in the living room “Robbins was exhausted, not ill or injured, and an Australian official quoted Jarhling as saying he had not seen anything like it in his 35-year coaching career.”

The most interesting difference between these two women is in their minds. The first almost won a medal against massive odds. The second lost a medal against almost no odds at all. The main difference seems to have been internal to each of them, and the determination to finish the differentiator.

Sally Robbins might not have heard that famous quote from Winston Churchill:

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

To have gone that far and to lay down is an interesting choice to make.

The Failure of the Human Potential Movement: From Self-Actualization to Experientialism

“I’m convinced that when an atmosphere is created which puts an extreme emphasis on experience over understanding, that atmosphere will inevitably create and encourage infantile selfishness.”

Source: The Failure of the Human Potential Movement: From Self-Actualization to Experientialism (c) 1998 Geoffrey Hill

This is a relatively old essay but it gives a good critique of the Human Potential Movement and the impact that this and related ideologies have had on modern western society.

The focus on personal experience without any rational analysis or thought has helped to deliver us a society where every idea no matter how stupid is seen as equally valid.

Really a quite preposterous thing when one stops to think about it!