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January 8, 2020 Last updated: January 14, 2020

Podcast #574: The Power of Bad — Overcoming the Negativity Effect

Have you ever been heaped with praise, only to ignore it in favor of focusing on the lone piece of criticism you received?

That’s the power that bad things wield, and it’s a power that humans need to learn how to both harness and mitigate. 

My guest today lays out both sides of that coin in a book he co-authored with psychologist Roy Baumeister. His name is John Tierney and the book is The Power of Bad: How the Negativity Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule It. We begin our conversation discussing how much stronger bad is than good, and how many good things it takes to offset a single bad one. We then dig into the implications of the fact that bad things have a much stronger impact than good ones, including how you really only need to be a good enough parent to your kids, the best way to deliver criticism to others, and why religions that emphasize Hell have historically won more adherents than those that focus on Heaven. We also talk about how negativity is contagious and why it’s true that one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. We end our conversation with a look at whether or not social media is a negative force in our lives, and John’s advice on how to not let those he calls “the merchants of bad” in the media make us think that things in the world are worse than they really are. 

Lots of insights in this show on how both to use the power of bad to your advantage, and overcome its negative effects.

Show Highlights

  • Why do negative experiences carry more weight than positive in our lives?
  • Why do humans even have a negativity bias? 
  • What is the positivity ratio?
  • The merchants of bad 
  • How to go on a “low bad” diet 
  • Why it’s okay to have unrealistic views of the people you care about 
  • How negativity hurts parents 
  • Being able to take criticism without letting it kill you (and how to best deliver it, too) 
  • When it comes to motivation, are sticks or carrots more powerful?
  • How religions throughout history have used sticks effectively 
  • How social media and online negativity fuels our unhappiness
  • Why the most unhappy and pessimistic people are in the wealthiest countries 

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

Connect With John

John’s website

John on Twitter

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