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“Bad Emotions And…Bad Feedback Have More Impact Than Good Ones”

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I’ve written a lot about the importance of being positive in the classroom (see My Best Posts On Why It’s Important To Be Positive In Class). And here comes even more research that emphasizes its importance.

The New York Times has just published an article headlined Praise Is Fleeting, But Brickbats We Recall. Though I’d strongly encourage you to read the whole piece, here are some excerpts:

Negative emotions generally involve more thinking, and the information is processed more thoroughly than positive ones, he said. Thus, we tend to ruminate more about unpleasant events — and use stronger words to describe them — than happy ones…

….Professor Amabile said she found that the negative effect of a setback at work on happiness was more than twice as strong as the positive effect of an event that signaled progress. And the power of a setback to increase frustration is over three times as strong as the power of progress to decrease frustration.

“This applies even to small events,” she said.

If managers or bosses know this, then they should be acutely aware of the impact they have when they fail to recognize the importance to workers of making progress on meaningful work, criticize, take credit for their employees’ work, pass on negative information from on top without filtering and don’t listen when employees try to express grievances.

The answer, then, is not to heap meaningless praise on our employees or, for that matter, our children or friends, but to criticize constructively — and sparingly.

Professor Nass said that most people can take in only one critical comment at a time.

….As Professor Baumeister noted in his study, “Many good events can overcome the psychological effects of a bad one.” In fact, the authors quote a ratio of five goods for every one bad.

That’s a good reminder that we all need to engage in more acts of kindness — toward others and ourselves — to balance out the world.

One suggestion the article makes, which I question is that it’s better to start with criticism and then follow with praise. I wonder how much experience the researchers have had with children — or their parents….

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

One Comment

  1. Great post — and a great reminder to those of us who tend to be a little too quick to dispense criticism. Reminding ourselves that we need to pick and choose (because folks can often only absorb one critical point at a time) is a great lesson for teachers, managers, and people with relationships in general!

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