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Speech bubbles with many positive comments, and a single negative one. A caption points to it, reading “The one comment I take to heart”

That one comment

That one comment published on

What is it that makes some of us (Rob raises his hand at this point) focus so relentlessly on the negative feedback we receive, even to the point of discounting the positive?

Maybe it’s an evolutionary trait. Our reptilian hindbrain is warning us that even in an environment that seems welcoming and safe, a single threat should command our whole attention. As warm and dry as that cave might have seen to our ancestors, the growling coming from deep inside would probably have been worth heeding.

(And there could also be some perverse appeal from conflict itself. Conflict is drama, and we’re wired to be drawn to drama.)

Whatever the cause, there’s evidence that we pay a lot more attention to something if we think it signals danger. Which is a valuable habit when you’re doing something insanely dangerous — like, say, driving*, or being a woman and expressing an opinion on Twitter — but a lot less helpful if you’re putting yourself out there and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. It’s hard to bare your throat when your brain is convinced the meadow is surrounded by wolves.

I’m constantly fighting this trait whenever I release something into the world under my own name — both in the reactions I anticipate I’ll receive, and the way I deal with the comments I actually hear. Maybe I’d find it helpful to reflect on the fact that every time I focus on a positive comment instead, I’m defying millions of years of evolution. That’s impressive! That’s downright dramatic! Wow, I should do more of that!

So should you. Because you’re doing a great job.

*It’s one of the top ten causes of death around the world! Really!