Chatting with a neighbor, he asked where I work.  “Self-employed” said I.  “Where there are managers to coach, go I shall.”  His reaction was a frown, a turning down of the corners of his mouth, and a kind of “bummer for you” response.  “Bad times are coming and the self-employed shall not inherit the earth” kind of thing.

For the next couple of days I felt truly bothered by his comments.  I was irritated that he would assume that I’d be in trouble when all indicators are looking good for my business.  I’M feeling good about it.  So why was I feeling pissy about a 10 minute chat?  Maybe I was being too sensitive.  Or maybe I should be worried and was too out of touch to know it.  Then it hit me!  We are – for some reason – quick to assume the worst and slow to assume the best.  
It seems that asking, “How BAD is it for you?” is realistic and “How good is it for you?” is unrealistic.  Why is that?  Why would the negative be the default?
We get these messages from our family, the media, friends, bosses.  I know I was raised with a message of “don’t expect happiness – if you’re lucky you might feel content once in awhile” and I’m guessing a few other parents communicated this to their kids.  My dad used to ask me, “what’s the worst that could happen?” in any given situation.  The clients I work with often assume any conversation about performance will be a difficult confrontation but then find that it doesn’t have to be.  Even Julia Roberts’ character in the movie “Pretty Woman” said, “The bad stuff [about me] is easier to believe.”  
OK.  So there’s data, albeit anecdotal, suggesting that we are conditioned to default to the worst case scenario.  My computer defaults to Times New Roman but that doesn’t mean I have to use it.  It just takes some effort to choose a different font – it’s a choice.  
My 20-something daughter informs me that “What Up?” is so yesterday.  The new greeting is “What’s Good?”  I think they’re on to something.