After a talk this week by Dr. Greg Evans, a positive psychologist, at my school I have been thinking a lot about the negativity bias. This is where humans tend to focus or pay greater attention to negative things that happen – 10 good things can happen, but they are left focusing on the 1 negative thing. We have all been there and can relate to this scenario. We also cannot ignore all negative things; however, there is a ratio of positive to negative that is healthy.
As the focus of the presentation was on relationships, Dr. Evans suggested a 5:1 ratio is often found in successful relationships. That is 5 positive interactions/comments, for every 1 negative interactions/comments. If the ratio is to high – say 10:1, this is not good either. He also suggested that we often waste our negative interactions on things that don’t matter. I have caught myself a few times since the talk considering if my comments were positive or negative, but also, if they could be persevered as negative, did I want to ‘use’ up my negative interaction on that. Was it worth it? Was there a way I could re-frame the negative interaction into a positive interaction?
As an independent school teacher, I think it is particularly important to consider the negativity bias as families are investing a significant amount of money in their children’s education. If when they think of the interactions there is a ratio of positive to negative interactions that is greater or less than 5:1 this could impact their decision to re-enroll, even though there was a significant number of positive interactions. What can I do as the classroom teacher to make sure that there is a successful relationship developed? How can I make sure that negative interactions are saved for things that really matter – not wasted due to poor communication or lack of planning?
I think simply being away of the negativity bias is the first step in recognizing the importance positive interactions play in developing healthy relationships.