What is Negative Sentiment Override?
Put simply it’s when you or your partner are consistently seeing the negative side of any problem or each other, despite any facts or evidence to the contrary.
Someone in Negative Sentiment Override (NSO) is difficult to reason with as they will be constantly looking for holes in your arguments and questioning your motives or position.
The negative sentiment is overriding any positive (or even neutral) consideration that would normally be made.
How Do You See The World?
What pair of glasses do you see your relationship through?
Rose coloured (positive) glasses – More positive perspective of your partner / relationship.
Dark tinted (negative) glasses – Mostly negative perspective of your partner / relationship.
Or do you feel you have a pretty good eye for being fair – all things considered?
Perhaps it’s a mix and changes over time?
Take a moment to think about your answer
Getting Stuck in Negative Sentiment Override
Some people can get stuck in a negative state of mind. We all have bad days from time to time, but if you have a string of bad days or suffer through a traumatic event, painful feelings can be prolonged.
During this time you probably have a strong desire to return to ‘normal’, to feel better and get over the pain you are feeling. During this emotional time it’s natural to feel a range of emotions, deepending on your situation.
For example after a bad day at work you might feel angry, frustrated and jealous.
After a funeral you may feel a deep loss, grief, distance, loneliness. This could be followed by love, gratitude and even celebration.
Over time most of us return to a state of ‘feeling normal’ and life goes on.
Little by little, day by day our beliefs are shaped by our daily lived experiences. In the same way, NSO toward your partner can creep up on you overtime. Your beliefs about your partner, and your feelings toward your partner are shaped by events and memories over time.
What sticks out in your mind about your partner?
What events have shaped this belief you hold?
Could this ‘person in your mind’ be a true reflection of your living breathing partner?
Can a person change over time?
Prolonged Stress & Unresolved Issues
If your relationship is suffering from stress, unresolved issues, and emotional disconnection for a prolonged period of time; your desire to ‘bounce back’ is most likely wavering.
When working with a new couple, I receive analysis from the Gottman Relationship Checkup, based on a comprehensive online assessment. One indicator I see is for ‘Negative Sentiment Override’.
This indicator combined with my work in-session allows me to understand if you could be suffering from Negative Sentiment Override.
Common Signs & Responses of Someone in NSO
- Shut down communication
- Not listening
- Not trying
- Reeling off negative statements
- Arguing points of difference
- Using sarcasm
- Angry outbursts
- Substance abuse
- Siding with others
- Storming out
- Destructive behaviour
- Abrupt / Blunt
- Quick to conclude
- Numbness and apathetic
Relationship Challenges of NSO
Challenges will be present for someone in a relationship where one partner is suffering from NSO. The person may not even be aware of their negative state of mind, and sometimes both partners are suffering from negative sentiment override – creating an extra layer of complexity to break free from.
Breaking Free From NSO
As you might imagine breaking free from NSO is essential for couples to make progress and begin to resolve their issues.
Breaking free from NSO is like the light at the end of the tunnel. It creates a sense of hope, it allows the relationship to breathe, and provide a positive safe space for the relationship to repair.
Returning to a positive state of mind gives the relationship a chance to flourish.
Three Practical Strategies to Break Free From NSO
The Gottman Institute recommend three strategies to break free from NSO. Each strategy has challenges, which is why working in session together to achieve breakthroughs is so important for you to get the shift toward a healthy relationship.
Be Open to Influence From Your Partner.
Accept your partner for who they are. Be open to accepting their word and opinion. Understand how they are feeling. Incorporate their view into your relationship.
‘See’ from their point of view, ask yourself; How can I see this issue from a new perspective?
Could I be wrong here?
What can I learn?
Increase Fondness and Admiration.
Learn something new about your partner. Discuss what you like about them, how you appreciate them and what you are grateful for.
Uncover and pin point what they are adding to your life.
What positive emotions come to mind?
Turn Toward Instead of Away.
Keep your eyes peeled for bids of connection by your partner (they can sometimes be hard to spot).
Respond positively and follow through with moments of connection.
This can include conversations, check-ins throughout the day, small gestures, rituals, hugs and kisses.
Create Space for Positivity to Flourish
These three strategies combined will help evaporate the negativity surrounding your relationship and open the space up for clear thinking and healthy dialogue.
Beware it may take time, and sometimes old habits die hard. That is – keep trying and keep chipping away to create new healthy habits. With persistence you create an environment where positive sentiment can flourish consistently.
See the linked related resources throughout the this article to support your return to a positive sentiment.