Trying to be a happy human is tough. Turns out that we’re hard-wired for negativity. Downer ☹
We all know how hard it is to break habits. And the longer we’ve been doing a habit, the harder it is to break.
The longest habit of all is survival. Millions of years of evolution – all the way back to our mammalian ancestors – have taught us that it’s extremely helpful to be intensely anxious if we want to stay alive.
Back in the day, life-threatening risks were real and ever present. Which means we are all descendants of the acutely nervous.
Mercifully, the threat of being killed and eaten is pretty low these days. Which is nice.
Sadly, the wiring in our brains hasn’t troubled itself to change to meet our current changed life circumstances. So our very, very long-held sensitivity to threat remains firmly in place.
What does that mean for us in practice? At least three things.
1. We detect and process negative and threatening information heaps faster than positive stuff.
2. We are drawn to negative info more than positive info (which is perhaps why the news is so grim).
3. We can (and often do) massively overact to perceived threats (like people saying nasty things).
I was chatting with someone about all this the other day. (Because I tend to have chats about the ancient human brain and the role of fear in life. Seriously, I do.)
His view was that we should manage this hard-wiring through planning. Plan for every scenario you can imagine in any given circumstance and then if it happens you’ll be ready for it.
I had a different view, based on compassion.
Finding your compassion
While this fear-based tendency of our minds is occasionally helpful – when we face a real life-threating situation – it is generally not a great human quality and we need to manage it.
Part of that is about being much more honest about this condition and its universality. From that admission of weakness, that sharing of anxiety, that frankness about our common flaw, we can all recognise and talk about our vulnerabilities and reactions.
What has all this got to do with communications? Everything. If we infuse our personal and professional communications with a spirit of empathy and commonality then we can be more forgiving and helpful to one another. We can then achieve more together in a spirit of trust.
If you like the sound of this and want to know more about what Leigh Arnold Communications can do for you and your organisation, call me or email me. Let’s catch up for a coffee and a chat.