The answer’s always “No”

One of the lessons I have been taught is that, until I ask the question, the answer, in my head, is always “No”. In business this often takes the form of delaying making that call or sending that email to ask a potential customer if they want to go ahead with that work. I think of a hundred and one things that are more important, like clearing out cupboards, tidying paperclips or looking out of the window, all the while thinking, they’ll say “No” and that will be awful. Then, courage in hand, I contact them, and they say “So glad you have called/emailed. Yes let’s get this moving”.

Why do we do this? Why do we always think that the answer will be “No”? It is because our brains are hardwired to think of negatives rather than positives. We know at some basic level that negatives can kill us. Evolution has taught us that we need to remember bad things because then we are better able to keep ourselves away from similar situations. When I was seven I was stung by a nest of wasps. As a child I really avoided wasps after that. So, when I see a wasp I remember having to have the wasps combed out of my hair, the pain of the stings and the awful camomile lotion. Now when I see a wasp I ‘talk myself down’. There is only one or two, not hundreds. I can take myself away from the situation, and there are some great wasp killers on the market. Now when I see a wasp I deal with it and move on, telling myself that it’s great that I managed a situation and refocus on the lovely day.

This brain processing is called negative bias by psychologists and knowing this can help manage our actions and our thoughts. We can decide to let the negative fester, or we can manage it. Imagine you are having a lovely day and then someone cuts you up on the road. Instead of thinking what a lovely day you are having, your brain is programmed to focus on the negative event. At this point you need to decide will you have a bad moment, or will you have a bad day? You choose because the answer will always be “No” in your head.

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Have fun, stay safe.


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