Do you feel swamped with bad news? Why? “Tell the truth.” It’s the foundation of science – and the foundation of healthy relationships, communities, and countries. But the truth of things is complicated. To simplify, there is the good of things that are enjoyable and helpful, the bad of things that are painful and harmful, and the neutral of things that are neither. We need to recognize genuinely bad news for our own sake and to take care of others. But we also need to recognize good news: things that are useful, reassuring, inspiring, opportunities, solutions, etc.
The Brain’s Negativity Bias
Unfortunately, we have a brain that generally fixates on bad news and brushes past good news. Over the 600 hundred million year evolution of the nervous system, our ancestors:
- Had to avoid two kinds of mistakes: 1) thinking that there’s a tiger in the bushes but actually, all is well, or 2) thinking that all is well while actually there is a tiger about to pounce. What’s the cost of the first mistake? Just needless worry. But what’s the potential cost of the second mistake? Ulp, no more mistakes . . . forever. So we have a brain that tends to make the first mistake, again and again, to avoid ever making the second one.