So if we are going to be intentional about the connections we create with other people, it’s important to be aware of how our brains are naturally wired.

Have you ever noticed that at the end of a day, there may have been 30 things that went right but its that one thing that went wrong that you can’t stop thinking about — the mistake you made, the snarky remark from a colleague or the rude driver that cut you off.

Neuroscientists have discovered that our brains are wired with a negative bias. Or as Dr. Rick Hanson puts it, “the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones.”

Our brains developed like this for good reason. Thousands of years ago, being hyper-aware of negative information kept us out of harm’s way (like being eaten). But in today’s world, that negative bias can actually damage our relationships, our work productivity and our inner peace. Here are several tips on how to counteract our brain’s natural tendency to focus on the negative.


Happiness increases productivity

Did you know you can be 30% more productive if you are working in a positive state (instead of negative or even neutral)? In our culture we often think, “If I work harder, I’ll be more successful, which will make me happier.” But psychologists say we are thinking backwards and happiness actually produces better thinking and creativity. Check out this humorous insight into the “happy secret to better work” where Shawn Achor talks about the The Happiness Advantage. And feel free to download this template, if you want to try out Shawn’s challenge to rewire your brain in 21 days.


Let it sink it

Our brains are structured to hold explicit memories (past events, actions, and facts) and implicit memories (subconscious feelings and beliefs). But because of our negative bias, the implicit memory, which determines our view of the world and ourselves, can grow increasingly dark as it accumulates and stores negative experiences. To coun­ter­act that, we need to actively build up pos­i­tive implicit mem­o­ries to bal­ance this unfair accu­mu­la­tion of neg­a­tive ones. So whenever you have a positive experience (like a kudos from a colleague or an expression of appreciation from a friend) don’t just brush it off. Focus on that positive interaction for 30 seconds to let it sink in to your implicit memory.


The magic ratio – 5:1

Research has shown that the healthiest connections have five times more positive interactions than negative ones.  This is true for our personal relationships and our working relationships. In fact, in a recent study were 60 strategic business teams were analyzed for effectiveness, the highest performing teams had 5.6 more positive interactions than negative ones. Just being aware of that ratio can help us balance an honest conversation or constructive criticism with affirmation and encouragement in a healthy way.


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