There's been a lot of rhetoric in the media, both mainstream and social, that indicates a strong negative bias towards others. Moreover, seldom do I hear or read articles that do not have a negative slant to them.
In my communication workshops, I refer to the fact that we are angrier and sadder than ever before. I may have to add that we are also more negative than ever before.
The result of this negative slant in articles we read and hear is that we become accustomed to it and often listen just to hear the negative aspect. The next time that you are listening to the news, notice how your brain reacts to a negative story. You have an interest in it, you listen intently, and there will be a recognisable change in your mood when you hear a negative story.
It is not a conscious thought, it is unconscious unless you make it a conscious thought.
The reason is that your brain is always looking out for negative things is to keep you safe. Your brain is programmed to look for negative things, for risks, for danger. The down side of this negative bias is that we start to judge situations and to judge people in the same way. And the more that we read and hear negative messages the more we become programmed to do so.
This can lead to prejudging people based on what we have seen and heard rather than on the actual person in front of us.
When meeting people, we sometimes put them into boxes according to what we have learned from those who look or sound similar to those from our negative encounters or from negative media articles. Additionally, rather than look for the good in people we may start to look for the negative aspects of their character. This is our negative bias, or as I term it, prejudice.
It is unconscious but nevertheless it is there.
Putting people into boxes works for the most part. It helps us to rationalise irrational behaviour, it helps to warn us against any risk that this person might pose, it helps us to manage that person in a certain way. That is, until we get it wrong.
It is said that past behaviour is a good indicator of future behaviour. Again, for the most part this is true. Until of course that person may have changed or has a desire to change. If we label that person in a way that they once were, not only do we treat them unfairly we also hold them back from making their desired change.
The challenge for all of us is to break the negative cycle, to stop putting people into boxes, to stop unfairly judging others, to put an end to our unconscious bias, to reduce our negative thoughts about others.
Judge others with an open mind, judge others with a conscious positive bias, judge others for the way that they speak with you, judge others for the way that they treat you and not what you've heard about them. Importantly, judge others for what they do now, not for what they once did. People can, and do change.
Let's put an end to negative bias, let's look for the positives, let's judge each other with an open mind until we know differently.
You can change, you can stop negative thinking, and you can make a difference in your life and in others’ lives by simply looking for the positives.