It undermines our well being and our productivity, so why are we so addicted to bad news?

Jul 25, 2022

Every time I work with a client I learn.  Sometimes there are real surprises.  I had one of those recently and I thought it well worth passing on because so many of us fall into the trap of not wanting to hear good news.

We were debriefing an assessment and were nearing the end of the session when the client said “one of the things that worried me most was the comment ….”  she is very smart, and I was surprised she was worried because I thought it was an encouraging statement.

I asked her to read the comment to me – she misread it, making it into a negative.  I asked the second time – the same thing happened.  The third time I asked her to read it very slowly and think about each word before saying it.  This time she got it right. 

When we talked about what she had done it was because she was subconsciously expecting a negative comment and could not believe the positive.  She was reading with her fear, not with her eyes, and fear disconnects us from reality. The reasons for that come, like most fear responses, from way back in our evolution.  Over estimating fear is a survival response – is that rustling in the bushes a tiger or a breeze?  There was very little downside to guessing it’s a tiger and preparing to run.  But over the years the exaggerated reaction to fear has become a drawback.

We all do it.  How many of us when being given an assessment, will turn first to the areas of improvement or look at our weaknesses, although the first three quarters of the report focuses on our strengths?  We need a more rational reaction to that rustling in the bushes in the 21st century. Fear is destructive, it makes us less productive and undermines our wellbeing. At a personal level we find it very hard to deal with the fact that we are a mix of strengths and weaknesses and that it is our strengths that we need to focus on. Your strengths are what people admire and employ you for.  You will benefit yourself, your family, your employer, and your community far more if you accept and celebrate your strengths and work on improving them rather than trying to turn round your weaknesses.   

 Pat Chapman-Pincher 

Pat has spent most of her career founding and growing leading edge technology companies all around the world.   Pat believes that thoughtful and inspiring leadership is critical to economic survival and now uses her skills and experience to help leaders and teams at all levels reach their full potential and to help companies succeed in a world where technology is transforming the way we do business. 

Pat is a Founder of www.defyexpectations.co.uk