We’re children of countless ancestors who stayed alive by focusing more on threats than on the good stuff. We’ve developed what’s called in science, a “negativity bias”; it’s literally in our DNA to see the negatives in our lives as larger than they are and to minimize positives when we are scared. That works great in survival situations. Thank goodness for that tendency. But that same negativity bias gets us into trouble in social situations. It can also be a problem in everyday decision-making. In business settings, the Caveman part of us wants to resolve conflict by swinging a club or climbing a tree. We see this when people are blaming and running from responsibility in work relationships. We also see the Caveman’s blame game in family life, whether it’s nagging about chores, belittling the ones we love the most, or even becoming enemies.
However, blaming and focusing purely on negativity does not create solutions. It does not inspire people to go above and beyond. To be highly successful in the complex lives we live today, we need to rebalance ourselves by focusing far more on positives than negatives. We need to rebalance ourselves whenever the Caveman part of our brain wants to take over. It is more powerful than the Thinker and Artist combined. Otherwise we can be, what the mental health professionals correctly describe as, unbalanced.
I want to be really clear here. It’s important, of course, to focus on threats and problems a certain percentage of the time. We’ll always need the Caveman part of the brain to survive. However, in order to reach life dreams, we need to focus far more time on goals (Thinker), what works well for us and others, as well as new ideas (Artist). Spending too much time in Caveman mode tends to worsen relationships and reputations by angering others with our negativity.
Read the next excerpt: