One of the first things we are taught in grade school is “to treat others the way you would want to be treated.” This is known as the “Golden Rule.” At TRACOM we believe in the Platinum Rule which is to treat others the way that they want to be treated. This is based on SOCIAL STYLE and Versatility. Everyone has different behavioral preferences and it is important to understand, based on their Style, how others want to be treated.
What is interesting, though, is that we rarely treat ourselves the way that we want to be treated. In fact, our internal dialogue is often very negative and we can say some pretty nasty things to ourselves.
It’s important to draw attention to our internal dialogue because it is constant. Throughout every waking moment, our brains are continually buzzing with thoughts about ourselves and other people. According to David J. Pollay, a founding associate executive director of the International Positive Psychology Association and visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, we speak to ourselves at a rate of 1,300 words per minute. This is approximately six times the speed that we speak aloud (200 words per minute). This means that what we say to ourselves has a huge influence on how we interpret the world and our own talents and ultimately, how we respond to stress. Unfortunately, as I mentioned, many of the automatic thought patterns that we have are negative and unhelpful. Researchers have uncovered eight categories of automatic thoughts that people have including labeling (giving yourself a negative label or title; “I’m such an idiot!” “I’m incompetent at my job!”), and catastrophizing (magnifying the likelihood that the worst possible outcome will occur and imaging it’s going to be worse than it is; “If I lose my job, I will die!” “If I lose this client, I will be the laughing stock of the office!”)
Evidence of the negativity bias:
There is a lot of evidence showing that our brains are primed for negativity. This negativity bias even shows up in our language. Of the 558 emotion words in the U.S. English language dictionary, 62% of them are negative and only 38% of them are positive. And, of the most common emotion words that people use, 70% of them are negative. This means that we have a more complex and varied way of conceptualizing negative feelings compared to positive ones. But how did this negativity bias emerge? Why are we built with more sensitivity to negative news than positive news?
Well, this bias has an evolutionary basis. The concern of ancient people was not in the pleasures of life or in seeking out opportunities and rewards. Those in prehistoric times needed to respond quickly to threats that were immediate and imminent such as attacks from predators or natural disasters. Those who survived were those who could best focus on dangers and avoid them. This negativity bias was crucial to survival and therefore perpetuated over time. However, in modern times, this bias is no longer helpful and can lead us to maladaptive stress responses. For example, if our boss calls us into his office, we may immediately imagine that we are about to be fired. When demands shift, we may automatically feel overwhelmed and defensive.
These negative thought patterns are self-defeating. In the face of stress, they lead us to feel overwhelmed, see threats where none exist, and damage relationships. The first step in building behavioral EQ is to become aware that this bias exists. We can then learn to use particular strategies to temper this bias and to develop new, more productive habits.
Small tweaks can do wonders in terms of enhancing our EQ and resiliency and improving our performance in all aspects of life.