“If you see something beautiful in someone, speak of it” – Ruthie Lindsey
Our instinct to notice the bad more than the good is strong. Our media is filled with negative news constantly. I mean, have you ever counted the ratio of positive to negative stories in our daily evening news? Whenever I watch the news, I do this and more often than not, it is overwhelmingly in the negative story’s favour.
With so many advertising telling us of a product we “need” to buy to “fix” a non-existential problem, is it not surprising that we are quick to see the flaws and be negative about it?
Recently, I have been thinking about this a fair bit. Spending 24 hours in a return plane flight gave me a lot of time to ponder and think when I recently travelled to Sweden.
Whilst waiting to board at Stockholm Arlanda airport, I stumbled across Hans Rosling’s book “Factfulness” he co-wrote with his son, Ola Rosling, and his daughter-in-law, Anna Rosling Rönnlund. In it, they explore why we as a society, tend to have a bleaker overview of the world, and why things are better than we think they are.
“I think this is because human beings have a strong dramatic instinct towards binary thinking, a basic urge to divide things into two distinct groups, with nothing but an empty gap in between. We love to dichotomize. Good versus bad. Heroes versus villains. My country versus the rest. Dividing the world into two distinct sides is simple and intuitive, and also dramatic because it implies conflict, and we do it without thinking, all the time.”
“The gap instinct makes us imagine division where there is just a smooth range, difference where there is convergence, and conflict where there is agreement.”
Maybe, like Rosling argues in his book, things are better in the world than we think but our negative instinct is too strong. We remember the negative more easily with the positive in our lives.
I used to not be a fan of the daily gratitude exercise that has become popular over the past year. But the more I’ve reflected on the human tendency on the negative instinct, the more I realise that daily gratitude isn’t a bad thing after all. It helps us to realise and teaches us to think more, about the positive events in our lives than the negative. There is enough happening in the world, so why focus on the negatives?
How on earth does this have anything to do with the original quote by Ruthie Lindsey at the beginning of the post? I’ve touched on this before in the blog, but I believe that more love in the world is neat. I’m a strong believer in community and supporting each other, so I’m going to start making an effort to celebrate by speaking about the beautiful things I notice in people.