Interacting with a single stimulus

Every once in a while, you’re going to find yourself in a situation where a single stimulus will upset you. This could be a bad email, an angry exchange over the phone or a meeting that went awry. It could also just be a negative review or a disappointed user reacting to something you shipped.

Here’s an idea that might help – proceed with caution when reacting to a single stimulus. This is because we are wired to process negative responses with more intensity than positive responses. So, a single harsh email criticizing your recent presentation can threaten to cancel out ten positive responses. Of course, that’s if you let it.

There are a couple of ways to solve for this. First, try to get an aggregated pulse of a situation instead of focusing on one strong reaction. So, if you are picking a sushi bar, check out the average rating for the sushi bar on Yelp before diving into a single bad review. That seems natural when picking sushi bars, right? And, yet, when it comes to any kind of personal feedback, we tend to completely ignore this idea and fixate on the negative event. We need to go broad before we go deep.

Second, put extra weight on responses from practitioners or people you respect. Most people have an opinion on most things. Thanks to the proliferation of reviews online, giving feedback has become a sport these days. When you’re in the business of shipping, however, a lot of feedback is useless. This is because most feedback is given in isolation and, very few, as a result, have the level of insight required to be useful. This is where a practitioner’s view can be very useful. If someone has a track record of delivering the kind of presentation you’re seeking feedback on, pay attention. The feedback may still not be useful as we all have different styles. But, the chances of it hitting the mark are much higher.

Overall, it still comes back to the original point – beware interactions with a single stimulus. In fact, I’d even suggesting actively discounting it until you see widespread evidence that tells you otherwise.

There’s a nice quote that does this idea justice – ‘There are 7 billion people on this planet. Why, then, do we let just 1 of them ruin our day so often?’

Why indeed?