Navigating negativity bias

You can't please everyone and there's no point dwelling on it. By Paula Hines

Reading time: 2 minutes

Picture the scene: You’ve just taught a class. You chat to several people afterwards and they each tell you how much they enjoyed the class. Then one person lets you know they didn’t like it. How do you feel?

The above is quite a simplistic example, but if you’ve been teaching for a number of years, the chances are you’ve experienced a version of this scenario at least once.

You could receive 100% positive feedback for 99 days then on Day 100, out of a large group, you get a negative response from one person. The likelihood is that your mind will get stuck on the one, single negative response. As humans we’re hard-wired to focus on the negative over the positive: the negativity bias.

It’s not that we should be seeking out praise and that all negative responses must be dismissed. Instead, consider examining where the negative response may be coming from and whether behind it is something we ought to address or not.

In one instance, I remember someone attending my class for the first time complaining afterwards that my voice was too quiet. Yet, everyone else, including the people at the very back of the room expressed that they could hear me perfectly well. For context, the person who complained had placed their mat directly in front of me and very close to my own mat. I’d also checked beforehand that everyone could hear me.


If this person had said something during the class I could have addressed their concern. Unfortunately, they did not. That said, the implication here was that the level of my voice was probably not the issue in that moment. Some months later my suspicions were confirmed when the same person returned to class, apologised and revealed learning that they had some hearing loss.

There’s an added layer when the negative response is from another teacher. My experience of this has been rare, but from what I’ve witnessed and anecdotally, this tends to be more about someone having their own ideas of how things ‘should’ be done, particularly when coming from different schools of yoga.

My thoughts? Note the negative to ascertain any constructive feedback, but try not to ruminate on it. Address what you can where possible and have compassion for others. But also know that sometimes, it’s really not even about you or your teaching at all. You won’t please everyone and that’s okay.

Paula Hines is a London-based yoga teacher and writer. Her new book Rest + Calm (Green Tree, Bloomsbury Publishing) is out now in paperback, audiobook and Kindle/eBook. Find out more at:

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