Positive To Negative: Five To One

Living in Seattle, I'm a Seahawks fan, which, in any given season, can encompass the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Something strange happened in our game against the Arizona Cardinals. We didn't win or lose. For the first time in Seahawks' history, we tied.[i]

Our kicker, Steven Hauschka, missed a game-winning field goal in overtime. But then, so did the Cardinal's kicker, Chandler Catanzaro. It was a weird defensive game that turned into a kickers duel. Regulation play ended with a 3-3 score. Each kicker added another 3 points in overtime, bringing the score to 6-6.

At 3:26 left in overtime, Catanzaro missed a 24-yard field goal. Then, it was Hauschka's turn with only 11 seconds left. Inexplicably, Hauschka, with a 92.5% success rate at under 50 yards, missed a 28-yarder.[ii] Thrill and agony, in under three-and-a-half minutes.

Personally, I love sports. Professionally, I love sports because sports so often present a fascinating subject for therapeutic consideration. Once the game was over (and I got my chin up off the floor), I paid attention to how each of the coaches reacted to their respective player's failure.

Cardinals coach, Bruce Arians, said after Catanzaro's miss: "Make it. He's a professional. This ain't high school. You get paid to make it."

Seahawks coach, Peter Carroll, said after Hauschka's miss: "He's been making kicks for us for years. I love him, and he's our guy."[iii]

One comment was sarcastic and negative. One comment was affirming and positive. I wondered which will have the most lasting impact.

I've heard for years that, to counterbalance the influence of a single negative comment, you need ten positive comments. Several years ago, the New York Times quoted influential Stanford University professor, Clifford Nass, as saying, "Some people do have a more positive outlook, but almost everyone remembers negative things more strongly and in more detail." In the article, he went on to explain, "The brain handles positive and negative information in different hemispheres."

Apparently, we spend more time thinking about negatives, and in greater depth, than positives. Negatives stick stronger and longer so, maybe, that's why it takes so many positives to unseat them. Instead of the anecdotal ten-to-one ratio, this same New York Times article attributed a five-to-one ratio to "Roy F. Baumeister, a professor of social psychology at Florida State University."[iv]

Ten-to-one or five-to-one, I'm not an expert on ratios. But, I do know this from my work as a therapist, the negative things people hear can last for decades, affecting how they view themselves, others and the world, in general. There is power in the negative.

This I also know; there is power in the positive, in the encouraging, in the uplifting, because that's what people need to do when they fall; find a way to pick themselves back up. To me, encouraging comments give a verbal hand-up.

Both Catanzaro and Hauschka had to pick themselves up for the next game. About the next game, Carroll said: "Steven will be OK... I can't remember a time we've asked him to kick a game winner when he didn't get it, so I'm counting on him doing it this week. He has been phenomenal for us."[v]

Some commentators think it's time to cut ties with NFL ties, like college football, basketball, baseball and hockey have already done. If so, I like Russell Wilson's, the quarterback of the Seahawks, take on getting rid of ties. He thinks both teams should flip a coin and "let the winner ... try a 53-yard field goal. Make the field goal, win the game. Miss the field goal, lose the game."[vi]

This past week, Hauschka made his kicks but the Seahawks still lost to New Orleans when Wilson's final pass of the game was caught out of bounds. I wonder what Hauschka said to Wilson.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life's work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

[i] http://www.seahawks.com/news/2016/10/23/rapid-reaction-seahawks-6-6-tie-arizona-cardinals
[ii] http://www.seahawks.com/news/2016/10/24/six-things-we-learned-seahawks-coach-pete-carroll%E2%80%99s-appearance-710-espn-seattle
[iii] http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/17872185/coach-bruce-arians-rails-blocked-field-goal-ruling-arizona-cardinals-tie-seattle-seahawks
[iv] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/your-money/why-people-remember-negative-events-more-than-positive-ones.html
[v] http://www.seahawks.com/news/2016/10/24/six-things-we-learned-seahawks-coach-pete-carroll%E2%80%99s-appearance-710-espn-seattle
[vi] http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2016/10/31/nfl-morning-after-its-time-to-get-rid-of-ties/