Why does one negative comment have so much power over all of the positive feedback one receives? Why can one negative response spoil so much positive in a matter of seconds? There must be tons out there on this, but I wouldn’t even know where to begin.
This applies in all sorts of areas and I suspect many people react similarly although I would love to hear if there are those who don’t. Possibly it’s related to self-esteem, but I’m not sure to what extent.
Examples can come from all sorts of areas. Let’s say you get a bunch of compliments on how well you look and then one person makes a comment that you perceive to be negative (e.g., that it looks like you’ve gained weight if you’ve been trying to lose some, or that you look really thin when you’ve been trying to put on a few pounds) and that one comment then negates all of the positive and probably any/much positive that follows. Or let’s say you get a bunch of positive comments on a paper or a talk and then there is one negative critique (not the constructive kind, the asshole kind), which then seems to carry much more weight in one’s self-evaluation than all of the good feedback combined.
This is relational, of course, or one would at least think that aspect would matter as well. That is, it would be reasonable to give more weight to feedback we get from someone we know and respect compared to someone we know and don’t respect as much, or someone we don’t know at all. But is that what we do? Maybe in some situations that’s true, but certainly not all. It’s too easy to give equal weight to negative feedback no matter the source.
How long is it reasonable to be down about a negative comment especially when it is not given constructively? What does it take to remind ourselves that the negativity likely reflects something about the person expressing it much more than the target of the attitude? What’s a good approach to pushing the negative into the back of our minds so it’s not up front every time we think about the area under critique?