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Objectivity: The 5:1 Ratio

January 8, 2013

Objectivity is an essential ingredient in learning and adaptation. Without an objective sense of the conditions that led up to the consequence, we may flounder when faced with performance plateaus. Though “great knowledge” is probably that which most people desire from a coach, “great objectivity” may be even more important. This series of blogs explores the topic of objectivity in athletic improvement, via both coaching and self-coaching.

I have been reading through “Buddha’s Brain” by Rich Hanson and Richard Mendius lately, and the following quote struck me:

Bad information about a person carries more weight than good information (Peeters and Czapinski 1990), and in relationships, it typically takes about five positive interactions to overcome the effects of a single negative one (Gottman 1995).

OK, so 1 “bad” experience with a person stands out as much as 5 “good” ones. What does this mean for us as we interact with our athletes, even if that athlete is ourself? Does this 5:1 ratio have any application in other experiences? Does 1 bad aspect of a performance or workout stand out as much as 5 good ones? Do we need to review the good things that we did 5 times for every review of a bad thing?

I don’t know the exact numbers, but I can say with experience, people will often let a single bad thing overshadow multiple good things when reflecting upon an athletic performance – especially when that single bad thing is the time on the clock! Perhaps this is why the old “make a list of pros and cons” is such a powerful tool when making a decision. When we place the pros and cons side by side, we can accurately review the numbers.

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