Imagine our ancient ancestors out on the long grass of the wild plain.
Their senses fixed upon their predators.
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
Meanwhile, the beasts that sustained our predecessors could be
passing them by without them noticing at all.
Making their situation that much more dire.
We’re Wired to Focus on the Bad.
After all, to survive, life has to win every day. Death has to win just once.
That’s why we pay more attention to our enemies than our friends.
Our friends won’t do us in!
Now transport yourself off the fruited plain and picture yourself in the jungle.
The jungle that is most office spaces.
Your brain closes off from the outside world and focuses on the negative, preventing you from seeing other options and choices that surround you.
After infinite generations of evolution, we’re still steered by our fears.
Welcome to Episode #48 of Navigating the Fustercluck…
a snackable podcast that addresses the aggravatingly awesome world of creativity and marketing, where our focus today is to explore the power of negativity, and how we can put it to service to make things better.
Or as Helen Fisher, the author of Anatomy of Love, says…
By conquering the brain’s impulse to focus on the bad, we can all build stronger relationships and enjoy happier lives.
Let’s see how that translates in the environment we so often find ourselves in. Let’s explore the office jungle. And what we fear most there…
Just like our own childhoods, we can be scarred for years by a single event. That’s the textbook definition of trauma. As the New York Times points out, Bad emotions, bad parents and bad feedback have more impact than good ones.
No matter how well we do at our jobs, we still feel that it can all be wiped away in one fell swoop:
By a new boss.
A big mistake we may have made.
A vindictive client.
Any and all of them can wipe away an otherwise superb record.
So, we find ourselves in a constant state of anxiety.
Oddly enough, there is no positive opposite of trauma. One big success or moment cannot counterbalance the fear of a traumatic event.
How can they when we so often here, What have you done for me lately?
No wonder negativity consumes so many of us.
And when it does, your brain closes off from the outside world and focuses on the negative, preventing you from seeing other options and choices that surround you.
That’s how negativity can make us feel. Placing us in utter despair. So deep we may wonder how the Hell we can escape it?
How do we combat negativity when the negative has a greater impact on us than the positive. In fact, negative thoughts are 5X more powerful than positive thoughts.
Back to the Future
Well, just like negative thoughts served our ancestors, they can help us, too.
Contentment has its place, but staying too long in one place can be damaging.
According to the Harvard Business Review..
Negative feedback guards you against complacency and groupthink.
Negative thoughts can keep you on your toes. Keep you searching. Moving on from one place where your competitors may catch up to or even pass you.
If you embrace it, fear can help you keep your edge.
As the legendary leader of Intel, Andy Grove once said, Only the paranoid survive.
If you’re wrong, you will die. But most companies don’t die because they are wrong; most die because they don’t commit themselves. They fritter away their valuable resources while attempting to make a decision. The greatest danger is standing still.
Just don’t let paranoia destroy ya’.
Criticism is hard to take form anyone. Friend, family or co-worker.
The key is understanding the intent of the criticism. Is it constructive or negative?
I must admit, I’ve had reviews where 99 out of 100 things were positive. Even glowing. Yet, coming out of that session the only thing I could hold onto was that 1 negative thing. Ever done that? Bet you have, too.
I feel so stupid when I do that, yet, I still struggle at times with this. I have to remind myself…
You’re not a negative person, you’re human!
As for giving criticism, it’s been shown that positive reinforcement is the way to go. Except….when we’re headed over a cliff.
Like a child about to touch a hot stove, you have to step in to avert disaster.
Now if someone is personally attacking you, that’s different.
Don’t be defensive, but ask for examples to better understand.
Stay rational. Keep pronouns out of the discussion. Stick to the facts.
And if still turns ugly, propose that you reconvene when you’ve both had a chance to think things over more. You can’t allow personal attacks to come under the guise of constructive criticism. That kind of passive-aggressiveness is a common tactic of bullies, and if you can’t nip it in the bud by yourself, may require HR.
The Negativity of Positivity
You ever try to push a beachball to the bottom of a pool only to have it shoot out with even greater force. That’s what happens when we follow the cult of so-called “positive thinking”. Trying to bury or ignore these feelings only amplifies them.
On the other hand, the act of separating ourselves from our thoughts, becoming detached, so we can step back and rationally address our negative thought patterns and feelings is a major step in overcoming negativity.
Name It to Tame It
When you defuse your feelings and allow your big brain to take the lead it’s probably by identifying what’s troubling you. A lack of control. Financial fear. Past bullying that’s been reactivated. Name it to tame it. It’s the last step in the first step of cognitive defusion.
Mindfulness and meditation or yoga or whatever tool you use to calm your brain are not just New Age mumbo jumbo. They’re scientifically proven. Look em’ up! Just being mindful of my breathing helps a lot. A whole lot, I’ve found. And I’m about as far from New Age as they come.
Question Your Questions
Don’t question yourself, question what’s bothering you. Is it really such a big deal? Have you dealt with it before? What did you learn? How can you deal with it better? How have others dealt with it.
Michel de Montaigne once said that “My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.” In other words, we fret about the future in a way that mentally and physically harms us as if those things all actually happened. Most don’t. Stay focused on the present. How to avert or overcome your articles. Anxiety never fixed a thing. Focus will.
When Others Try to Womp You with Their Bad Thoughts
Creativity and marketing are under constant attack. Sometimes fairly. Often not.
When Customers Become Terrorists
One thing clients and agencies are sometimes guilty of is allowing a few miserable people submarine a campaign or brand with blatant negativity. The worst are review sites. The new domain of the angry and disgruntled. A 5-star positive review doesn’t erase a 1-star review, even if that review is general and vague.
Why on earth allow these people to dominate you. Check out their past reviews. Are they always negative? If so, they’re either the crabbiest or unluckiest people around. I’m guessing the former over the latter.
In an age of social media, we have to remember, you can’t please everyone all the
We remember our failures more than our successes. That we’ve established.
The pain of criticism is much stronger than the pleasure of pain.
When we try to flee that negativity it eventually builds up momentum and catches up to us.
Bad thoughts can stop us from trusting in the future. Looking for negative patterns that aren’t really there. So you tried an experiential effort and it failed. That doesn’t mean that it will fail every time. What did you really learn from that experience?
You can’t control everything, but you can control yourself
No mistake about it…Bad is Powerful. But You Are More Powerful.
Most of the time, you can turn the Negative into the Positive.
Guaranteed? Nope. But most of the time. That’s the reality. Play the odds. They’re in your favor.
Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
Again, you’re only human. And as a creative, you may well be sensitive. That’s usually a gift. Try being perfect and you’ll find out just how impossible that is.
Time to Take a Short Breather… (EXHALE.)
…We’re here at Deaf Mule Studios to remind everyone that this is Navigating the Fustercluck. And I’m your host, Wegs. And this has been an exploration of phone meetings.
Let’s loop back for one final thought to take advantage of the format…
Involuntary Memories Tend to be Unhappy
These memories scamper into our consciousness like the lizards that define our lizard brains. The part of the brain that strikes like lightning. That can overwhelm us with emotion, if we’re not careful.
If you feel your emotions overwhelming you, breathe deep. Read about the stoics. Actively search out strategies to stem the tide that can capsize your mind and career.
Pay attention to your emotions. Rationalize them. And as you give them thought, they’ll start to subside. Exercise that way enough and it will get easier and easier. At least it has for me. And according to the reading, it should help you as well.
Well, that about wraps up our 48th episode of Navigating the Fustercluck.
Here from Deaf Mule Studios, I’m your host, Wegs, like eggs with a W, and thanks again for listening in and supporting us. And if you have more thoughts on dealing with the anxiety riddling our industry, please, please feel free to reach out to me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org or NavigatingTheFustercluck.com, where you can find transcripts to this episode and our first 47 efforts. Finally, remember, we’re all in this together. Let’s try to help each other deal with this stuff. Here’s to you. Here’s to the future.