Read: August 2023

Inspiration: Came across on Amazon’s bestseller list; interested in understanding the “negativity effect”


Written with the help of ChatGPT, below is a brief summary to understand what is covered in the book.

“The Power of Bad”, published in 2019 by authors, journalists, and psychologists John Tierney and Roy Baumeister. explores the pervasive influence of negativity bias in human psychology. The book argues that the human brain is wired to pay more attention to bad experiences and negative information than positive ones, which has significant implications for our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Tierney and Baumeister delve into various aspects of life where the power of bad comes into play, such as relationships, workplace dynamics, and decision-making. They also offer practical strategies for individuals and organizations to harness the power of bad for personal growth and success. Ultimately, “The Power of Bad” provides valuable insights into the human psyche and offers guidance on how to navigate the inherent negativity bias to lead a more fulfilling and productive life.

Unedited Notes

Direct from my original book log, below are my unedited notes (abbreviations and misspellings included) to show how I take notes as I read.

Power of bad exemplified by fact there is no opposite of “trauma”—no positive event with such a lasting impact, similarly no word to connote empathizing with someone’s good fortune like “sympathy” for bad fortune, PTSD so publicized but never post traumatic growth (bad events spur growth quite often), bad dominates journals and media, the world today has a Crisis Crisis: never ending series of hyped threats leading to actions that leave everyone worse off, Rule of Four: four positive emotions to counter one negative, negativity effect particularly potent in relationships—one negative statement/action can trigger one’s insecurities and anxiety (get in own head) and spark withdrawal/downfall of relationship, most constructive thing in relationship is to withhold negative and be thoughtful to avoid spiral in even seemingly strong relationships, “good enough” is better than aiming for perfection and fumbling certain elementary aspects—negativity sticks across all kinds of relationships, don’t overpromise b/c underachievement is what gets remembered, don’t expect credit for going extra mile, beware of fundamental attribution error (generalize shortcomings of others vs have specific reasons for your own), don’t escalate and stay calm in response to conflict, avoiding bad is key in all relationships—it is what you don’t do unto others, use tactic of imaginary referee—ask how third party observer would see conflict to tame anger, Felix Baumgartner originally turned away from stratosphere jump last min b/c scared of being in suit for 5 hours—nothing to do with height and risks of jump otherwise, Felix got into negativity bias spiral where all little things turned negative, underwent cognitive behavioral therapy to change interpretation of events/stimuli, all mental per CBT and can change narrative in own head to reverse catastrophizing, positive discounting, etc, prep self with “coping statements”: simple sentences that can be repeated in mind to overwhelm irrational negative thoughts, stating aloud/talking about it is key, breathing essential, in hearing opinions people often find criticisms as more intelligent than supports—”brilliant yet cruel” (opposition/negativity viewed with more merit/expertise), “I’m Afraidsmanship” is how mitigate cruel element by adding “i’m afraid” before critique to give reminder of kindness, managers tend to go for “feedback sandwich” where give positive then neg then pos, but with negativity effect people latch to neg (forget initial pos) and too fight or fight for ending pos, so best generally to start with negative then accentuate pos and be forward looking, doctors also leverage questions for patients to be confirmatory of feelings vs simply bearer of bad news (though varies by patient personality), schools since 1970s embraced a self esteem theory of success that led to lack of penalties/punishments, no “F’s”, all praise, but backwards as penalties and failures generate greatest learnings, theory that boys love videos games because die over and over and learn until succeed vs school get none of that feedback as all get participation trophies, competition motivates more than collaboration, sticks>carrots but not how education is approached anymore, too many A’s handed out in college results in less critical thinking development, theory in workplace of replacing year end bonus with upfront payment subject to year end reduction—shows increased productivity through year motivated by desire to not lose, discipline systems work best when have clear path to redeem—can tell employee will have mark on record but if clean for 6 months then wiped fully, 1 bad apple can spoil full team dynamic even if rest of team is great, bad apples won’t change on there own—require intervention as early as possible, sometimes just putting in diff setting helps, but even if bad apple is a star need to consider impact on whole barrel and eliminate if coaching not working, YouTube generally the happiest social platform, PTSD develops 20% of trauma instances (80% growth after trauma), general pattern of happiness falling into middle age (40-50) then rising therafter into old age, elderly people tend to see happier side of things, as the world gets better people become harsher critics and more pessimistic particularly in well off areas of the world, progress seems to mask itself, the more remote the danger the more apocalyptic the warning, direct threats of war and disease muted so now fear existential issues, addiction to safety often fuels collective stupidity, anti vaping crusades are notable as smoking cigarette rates decline sharply which is good, nicotine itself no worse than caffeine but the other carcinogens are bad, e-cigs much much better yet people want to tout just as bad as cigs and restrict (sure for children, but great alternative for adults and effective and safe), remember Rule of Four helps to mitigate perceived impact of negative events—never as bad as may feel, Profits of Doom fuel Crisis Crisis but average person really not more extreme than in past or b/c of social media—need to cut these profits to impact, good is there is consciously look for it and aware

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