The Power of Bad Book Summary - The Power of Bad Book explained in key points
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The Power of Bad summary

John Tierney and Roy Baumeister

How the Negativity Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule It

4.5 (174 ratings)
31 mins

Brief summary

The Power of Bad by John Tierney & Roy Baumeister explores the negative power of bad and how it shapes our thinking and behavior. They offer strategies to harness its effects and turn bad into good.

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    The Power of Bad
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    Negative experiences are more powerful than positive ones.

    Let’s say you’re in a relationship. Like most relationships, it’s not perfect. Sometimes, your partner is wonderful. They’re smart, kind, and funny. But, every so often, they’re the opposite. They’re mean, vindictive, and distant. Do you stick around?

    Early in his career, Roy Baumeister found himself facing this very question. To make a decision, he kept track of the days. He recorded which were good, which were bad, and which were neutral. After a few months, the pattern was clear: the good days outnumbered the bad 2 to 1.

    With this data, he knew what to do; he left. 

    The key message here is: Negative experiences are more powerful than positive ones.

    If you’re like most people, you probably agree with Baumeister’s decision to break off the tumultuous and uneven romance. A relationship that is only pleasant two-thirds of the time doesn’t seem like an appealing prospect. For most people, “2 to 1” is not an acceptable positivity ratio.

    This is a term used by social psychologists to describe the ratio between any given set of good and bad events. Countless studies have shown that, in many scenarios, an overall positive outcome requires a high positivity ratio. That is, positive events need to greatly outnumber negative ones. 

    A classic study conducted by psychologist John Gottman demonstrates how this works. He asked married couples to record their daily interactions as either positive or negative. He found that couples with an even number of good and bad interactions usually broke up. He also found that the happiest couples had at least five positive interactions for every negative one. 

    This 5-to-1 ratio is sometimes known as the Gottman Ratio. It works as a pretty good rule of thumb for measuring happiness in a relationship but can also work in other contexts. 

    To measure your own personal growth, Baumeister recommends aiming for at least four positives for every one negative. For instance, let’s say you’re trying to maintain a new habit like a daily yoga practice or skipping dessert after dinner. Don’t be too upset if you slip up one day. Instead, just try to hit your mark the next four days. 

    This 4-to-1 approach gives you a more accurate perspective on your overall success. It also keeps you from letting one setback set the tone of your entire week. In the next blink, we’ll look at some ways to maintain a high positivity ratio.

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    What is The Power of Bad about?

    The Power of Bad (2019) is a thorough exploration of the outsized influence negativity has in our personal lives and our society. Based on well-researched insights from social psychology, political science, and economics, it unpacks how this “negativity bias” came about and what we can do to overcome it.

    The Power of Bad Review

    The Power of Bad (2019) explores the impact of negativity in our lives and offers practical strategies for overcoming its powerful influence. Here's what makes this book worth reading:

    • It presents a compelling argument backed by research, explaining why negative experiences have a greater impact than positive ones.
    • The book provides concrete steps to overcome negativity bias and improve well-being, allowing readers to cultivate a positive mindset.
    • With its accessible language and relatable examples, the book keeps readers engaged, ensuring that the topic of negativity never becomes dull.

    Best quote from The Power of Bad

    If one thing goes wrong, dont interpret it as a harbinger of inevitable doom, whether youre dealing with a personal setback or contemplating the state of the world.

    —John Tierney and Roy Baumeister
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    Who should read The Power of Bad?

    • Pessimists looking for a brighter perspective
    • Amateur psychologists seeking insight into human behavior
    • Anyone desiring a new perspective on what shapes society

    About the Author

    John Tierney is an award-winning science journalist and author of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. His column “Findings” regularly appears in the New York Times.

    Roy Baumeister is a social psychologist at the University of Queensland and fellow at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. His wide-ranging research includes work on identity, belonging, and motivation.

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    The Power of Bad FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Power of Bad?

    The main message of The Power of Bad is that negative experiences have a stronger impact on our lives than positive ones.

    How long does it take to read The Power of Bad?

    The estimated reading time for The Power of Bad varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Power of Bad a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Power of Bad is worth reading as it explores the power of negativity and provides insights on how to navigate a world filled with negative experiences.

    Who is the author of The Power of Bad?

    The authors of The Power of Bad are John Tierney and Roy Baumeister.

    What to read after The Power of Bad?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Power of Bad, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Growing Great Employees by Erika Andersen
    • The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
    • The Upside of Your Dark Side by Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener
    • In Defense of Selfishness by Peter Schwartz
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