He’s better than 90% of the guys out there.
You can think of a lot of things you like about him. He’s kind. He’s thoughtful. He’s funny.
He’s not perfect.
There’s this thing about him that annoys you.
Maybe it’s that gross sound he makes when eating…
Or his obsession with some sports team…
Or the way he spends his money.
And you think:
Could I live with this forever?
Won’t this drive me crazy in a few years?
The Negative Outweighs the Positive
Our brains are wired to spot the worst in any situation.
This is called the negativity bias.
We see what’s bad in people far more quickly than we see what’s good. We assign far more weight to those bad traits than the good ones.
For most of human history, this bias kept us safe.
If there was a source of danger in your environment, you needed to pay attention.
You didn’t want to stop and smell the roses when there was a saber-toothed tiger hiding in the bushes!
The negativity bias helped our ancestors survive, but it doesn’t work so well for us.
A co-worker’s critical comment isn’t going to kill us, but our mind latches onto any negativity and makes it more important than it really is.
Not only is this a miserable way to live, but it sucks the life out of relationships.
A study found that unhappily married couples don’t see half of the positive interactions they have, because they’re so focused on the negative.
If your guy compliments you regularly on how you look, you get used to it. But if he says something critical just once, you can’t forget it. That critical comment sears itself into your brain.
Researchers have been able to quantify just how much those negative interactions matter.
If you have one negative interaction, it takes at least 5 positive interactions to make up for it.
That is… if you’re lucky.
When you’re dating, one negative interaction can be enough to call the whole thing off.
You’re having a lovely dinner and you’re enjoying yourself when something comes out of his mouth that’s shockingly inappropriate.
It doesn’t matter how pleasant the evening has been. He said one wrong thing, and that’s it. You won’t be seeing him again.
How do you know whether your negativity bias is making a big deal out of nothing…
Or whether your instincts are right on the money?
We’re always looking for reasons to disqualify people.
The less we know them, the more weight we assign to their negative traits.
We don’t have enough positive experiences with them to counterbalance any negative interactions.
That’s one reason why couples who know each other for some time before getting together tend to have stronger relationships.
An insensitive comment or annoying trait won’t derail an established relationship as easily as it derails a budding relationship.
In an interesting twist, researchers have found that the more insecure you are, the more strongly you react to anything you perceive as negative.
When you feel insecure, you make the relationship less important to you, so that it won’t hurt so much if it ends.
You also tend to react more negatively yourself, pushing him away before he can push you away.
Which suggests that one of the most powerful ways to counterbalance the negativity effect is to feel more secure in yourself and in your relationships.
When you feel secure, you can put negative experiences in perspective more easily.
People who feel secure in themselves are more likely to give another person a second chance.
They don’t judge themselves harshly, so they’re less likely to judge other people harshly.
Should You Keep Seeing Him?
Whether you give a guy a second chance is up to you.
If you genuinely don’t think you can live with his annoying trait, then don’t force yourself to stay!
But if this guy is otherwise really great…
And you haven’t known him all that long…
Then it might not hurt to take it slow and see where things go.
We all have annoying traits. We all say the wrong thing from time to time.
The people in our lives know us well enough to let those negative experiences slide, because they overwhelmingly enjoy being with us.
Are you having a hard time deciding whether to stick it out or call it quits? Let us know the good and bad in the comments!