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How To Manage Negative Bias In A Relationship – An Exceptional Factor

Written by: La'Toya Haley-Haynes, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Let’s be honest. When we have a negative experience, we tend to hold on to that moment a lot longer than we do the positive experiences, especially regarding relationships. Not only do you hold on to it, but often you will harp on it, and no matter what positive thing happens next, you gravitate back to that negative experience. Before you know it, you now have an exceptional factor to manage. This is true whether you are an infant, toddler, child, preteen, teen, young adult, middle age adult, or seasoned adult. Negativity seems to always surpass positivity in our minds. Why is this?

Attitude duality polarity

Negative Bias

Many researchers have concluded we tend to hold on to negativity more because our brains shaped this type of functioning as a way of protection. Meaning we hold on to the bad to protect and prevent us from experiencing that same bad again, if not worse. Our tendency to think in such a manner is known as a “negative bias.”

According to Vaish, Grossmann, and Woodward (2008), the purpose of this bias is to help us safely explore and navigate our environment while appropriately staying away from situations that may be harmful or undesirable. At the end of the day, this sounds like a great tool, but it can also be a disaster mechanism for our relationships. Negative bias (per Coach La’Toya) is an exceptional factor that can keep you bound and stop you from having a healthy relationship with your loved ones, work family, friends, and even those you have not had the opportunity to meet. We’ll define exceptional factors as atypical mental, emotional, or physical influences that impact our thoughts and actions in a relationship.

The good news is there are ways to shift your mind to manage this exceptional factor and sever the chains of negative bias in your relationships.

Mindshift 1: The cliche “It’s not you; it’s me!” is real

When you hear this infamous line in a movie, you know what will happen to that relationship.

Seperation & Heartbreak

That line is a nice way to end a connection with another person or entity so they don’t feel like they have done anything wrong. In some ways, the cliche seems like a cop-out, but when it comes to negative bias, it’s the real deal.

It’s really not the other person; It’s you and your mindset

The truth is your perceptions and interpretations can lead you to a negative bias resulting in the victimization of the person or entity reaping the consequences of that bias. You hold all the cards and often get stuck operating with this full hand because negativity holds power and requires effort to break. Having self-awareness is essential to manage this negative bias. So now that you know it is you, you can help do something about it with a little bit of magic.

Mindshift 2: There’s a magic ratio…I should try it!

Okay, so it’s not real magic. While you may wish to use such words as “abracadabra” and “alakazam” to alter this exceptional factor, just one word is not enough. Research has shown that just one positive experience may not even be enough. Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Robert Levenson (American psychologists) conducted a study in the 1970s that revealed it takes five positive interactions/experiences for every negative interaction/experience. The magic ratio = 5:1 (5 positives for every 1 negative) This magic ratio is good to remember during conflicts and challenging times because we want the positive to outweigh the negative. Now, I am not advising you to count the number of interactions you have with all the daily relationships in your life; however, I am asking you to consider the idea. Consider the idea of increasing your focus on generating more positive thoughts for every negative one that occurs. Consider being open.

Mindshift 3: I can be open to support

As much as I wish that the magic ratio would fix everything, the reality is that it will not. There is no magic ratio regarding loss, trauma, or healing in relationships, but support is available. Being open to support means you are receptive to the idea that there is a way to help you with your current situation. Such assistance can be professional if you cannot manage the negativity, but it can also be personal and done by you.

Support can be self-facilitated. Positive and negative experiences fill our world. Positive and negative experiences also fill your relationships. Utilize some of these strategies as supports to tap into them:

  • Release the negative thoughts

  • Hyperfocus on the good moments

  • Reduce the amount of time you watch the news, reality tv, drama series, etc., because often you will hang on to the negativity you see

  • Have an authentic and honest conversation about what you’re thinking

  • Create a gratitude or thankful journal

  • Celebrate positive experiences by putting them around your house, so you have a visual reminder

  • Participate in self-care activities

It helps to notice what works and doesn’t as you transition through different phases of your life. It also helps to consider your emotional state during those times. You’re learning in this process, and as parents, spouses, or leaders, you also model it for others. What do you want them to learn when managing their negative bias?

Mindshift 4: I will learn from my actions

To be human is to be a lifelong learner. Whether intentional or unintentional, we are constantly obtaining and processing information. We do this naturally but still need reminders every now and then to think about what we are learning from a situation. So here’s your reminder:

Take the time to reflect and learn.

When you feel yourself returning to a negative thought or holding on to negativity, step back and reflect.

  • Why am I thinking this way?

  • What may have triggered this thought?

  • How can I manage this?

  • What effect will this have on if I continue?

This knowledge is part of the reflection, and applying the knowledge with good judgment (b·k·a “wisdom”) is part of the learning. Learning from the experience and knowing what to do will shift you from always going into defensive mode to being in offensive mode. This shift helps you decipher whether or not your negative bias serves you well.

You Can Manage This Exceptional Factor

Negative bias can impact how you see your relationship and how you see your relationship can affect how you treat those in your relationship.

Follow me on Facebook, and visit my website for more info!


La'Toya Haley-Haynes, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

La’Toya Haley-Haynes is the founder of Dearest Famly Coaching, LLC. She is a family and relationships coach, author, and speaker. La’Toya is known as the “exceptional relationship coach” because she helps you identify and manage the exceptional factors that are keeping you bound so that you can begin to pursue healing within a healthy relationship. She understands firsthand how imbalance with boundaries, self-care, parenting, parenting a child with exceptional needs, relationships, and even spiritual growth can stop you from truly seeing and living the life you were meant to live. Her mission is to move people from confrontation and confusion to confidence and connections regarding healthy relationships.



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