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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Why people respond to the negative: Keeping It Real Since 1965

I was born in 1965. For as long as I can remember I have been telling people what I think and not pulling punches. That is a trend that is very likely to continue. I like to keep it real, even if that means I get a significant backlash by doing that.

If you say 5 positive encouraging things and then one negative and that is what most people will respond to and remember. That is just how the world seems to work. For good or bad, I view that as a fact.
Recently I have had a lot of conversations with friends about being positive or negative. I think in many ways this is a misunderstood concept. The perception of many is that some people are negative, and some certainly are.  Mostly though they are just realists. I consider myself a realist. Yes, some people are just plain negative and view everything with a slant that if it can go wrong it will. I am not that person, but I know of many. I like to think I keep it real, and call it as I see it. Something is neither negative or positive, it just is what it is.
I view it in a much simpler way. Things can go right or wrong. I get that. Either way, thinking about it in advance is a waste of time. Preparing and doing your best is pretty much all you can do. That is also the realist in me. I am neither negative or positive in that way.
Are we cynical when we see things in a negative way? Or are we just seeing what it really there, and we are neither cynical or negative? Perhaps those that try to spin them as positive when they are not are just delusional? Are we even saying something negative? Just because it is not praise or it contradicts what the other person says or believes, does that make it negative? I don't think so. I contend that when you do spin it seemingly negative people respond to that more than if it is just positive sounding.
So, why do many people respond to the negative? 

In many ways we view the negative as more interesting. When we watch the evening news, they start with the most horrific of happenings. Car bombings, significant deaths, scandals, plane crashes. They want to get and grab your attention, and those types of things certainly do that. They stir up emotions and opinions and reactions.
If someone is broken down by the side of the road, we might look, we might not. If there is nothing more than a hood up because their car is overheating, or the battery or alternator is dead, then we are likely to barely notice. We see that sort of thing all the time and it is just not that interesting. However, if that car were on fire, or there is a significant accident, with injuries, ambulances and fire trucks, we are certainly going to look. We are interested in what happened.

Did anyone die? Is there blood? How bad are the vehicles mangled? We want to know these things. The more negative the results, the more likely we are to pay attention. That is just how humans are.
For this reason the "good news stories" come near the end of the news and are short and cutesy. That is the only way to sell them as interesting. And they are a small portion of the actual content we are presented.

People will always respond more to the negative, even if it is not really negative, just a statement of fact, as you see it. The best you can do is keep it real and tell it like it is.

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