Several years back, Psychology Today ran an article on what it termed the human “negativity bias.” It seems that our brains have a heightened sensitivity to unpleasant news. We focus on the negative. Very likely that capacity kept our knuckle-dragging ancestors out of harm’s way. Today, however, it serves to allow politicians to manipulate us with negative messaging and gives the news media a portal through which they can drive advertising. The impact can be seriously harmful to our sense of well-being. Our clients are certainly affected by the same influences. Anyone who has spent any time at all on social media of late no doubt has been exposed to a bit of untempered anger. With a political season at hand, we can anticipate a tsunami of negativity in our near future layered on top of the Covid-19 situation.
Unfortunately, this bad-news bias is active not only when we sit in front of the television, but in every aspect of our lives. We remember insults far longer than we remember compliments. Fear can paralyze us into acting unwisely or not at all.
As a travel consultant, you depend on a reserve of positive energy to power your interactions with clients. Your clients are excited about their travel plans, and they want to share that excitement with you. Especially in the months to follow soon, good attitudes and confidence will be more important than ever. However, if you have spent the morning in a psychological swampland, chances are you will not be at your best. Clients can read your mood, just as certainly as you can read the mood of others. How are we to inspire others if we don’t feel inspired ourselves? Let’s not disappoint our clients.
We also run the risk of disappointing those closest to us, our family and friends. Supporting everyone’s spirit requires us to first mend our own. I have an image of the person I’m supposed to be, largely put in place by my father, but also a line of professors and very generous mentors. I have serious lapses on occassion. I don’t want to disappoint any of us.
That same Psychology Today article gave a prescription for counter-acting the brain’s negativity bias. In essence, you have to find a way to balance out the negative input to which you are exposed each day. Make a concerted, intentional effort to inoculate yourself against negativity and to detoxify your psyche. Here are a few suggestions: Give yourself a break several times a day. Get outside, listen to music, meditate. Find a way of introducing a quiet, positive space for yourself into your daily routine.
- Surround yourself with positive mementos of your life. Pictures, symbols and images of items and people that are important to you.
- Find positive influences. TED Talks are my current favorite, but intelligent books on spirituality, science, music or whatever lifts your perspective.
- Limit negative influences. Have a co-worker that is a chronic mal-content? Limit your exposure. “Entertainment” magazines filled with gossip and insights into the worst of human nature – leave them on the rack. The worst offenders? Cut back on the shrill voices of partisan politics and news. It is a most sad commentary that our news media and our political leaders have decided that anger, bitterness and mistrust are the way to influence our perceptions. Equally as bad? The “comments” section of many blog posts that attack individuals and use a curtain of anonymity as an opportunity for letting their shadow out for a romp. Stay informed by all means, but leave the anger to someone else.
- Re-script negative news. When you are exposed to negative influences, find a way of re-writing them to include a constructive element, a path to improvement or to some positive outcome. Here’s an idea – figure out how you can be part of the long term solution.
- Quit responding to anger with anger. Give less time to biased media and more time to fact finding. Regain your confidence in your own ability to reason rather than being told what to think by right and left wing commentators. Resolve to think independently and not to permit manipulation of your viewpoint.
- Do something physical each day. Give your mind a second break by some form of gentle exercise.
Frequent positive experiences, no matter how small, are an important antidote to the negativity that surrounds us. I read a quote the other day, attributed to Aldous Huxley: “Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness; it is generally the by-product of other activities.” Be self-generating and construct your own space and mood. Otherwise, you give up your power to others less capable of navigating your life.