Book Review – The Power of Bad: How the Negativity Effect Rules us and how we can Rule it, by John Tierney and Roy F. Baumeister 

This past January, at the annual Medworks kickoff meeting, I challenged every team member to choose a book, read it, and then offer a short review of their choice. For my book, I chose “The Power of Bad”. Realizing the book title sounded a bit negative, I was still intrigued and thought it was worth the read. I found it to be quite helpful and, in many ways, very positive. 

The essence of the book is that bad things tend to have more effect on us than good things do. The meaning of the Negativity Effect is “the universal tendency for negative events and emotions to affect us more strongly than positive ones”. Bad first impressions make a bigger impact than a good first impression. A financial loss looms larger than a corresponding financial gain. 

The book touches on reasons why even though our lives continue to improve vastly over time, we tend to think the opposite, that things are getting worse. Much of this is because special interests, politicians, and mass media feed us a constant diet of crisis, disasters, and injustices that create a false reality. 

The Power of Bad also prevents us from taking prudent risks for fear of losing. An example from the book is about how few football coaches dare to go for it on fourth down and short. Even though statistics show that there is a 66% chance of succeeding, the power of bad (disapproval of the fans) causes them to punt instead, missing potential scoring opportunities. 

There are many other principles and tools in this book including “The Rule of Four” (it takes four positive events to outweigh one negative), or the “Negative Golden Rule” (It’s what you don’t do to others that matters most). If you are looking for ways to stay positive and want to learn more about the pitfalls that can sink us into negativism, this book may be for you.