It’s tough to stay positive when things around you are volatile, uncertain, chaotic and ambiguous. I’ve recently been working with a client, who was struggling with just this kind of work environment. Things were changing around her and she was no longer sure what she was responsible for. It certainly didn’t seem like it was the things she’d been recruited to deliver on. She felt she was no longer being heard by her colleagues or the top team. All this was affecting her self-confidence, resulting in her not being willing to speak up.
This situation is not that uncommon in turbulent circumstances and there were a couple of techniques I thought would help her immediately to stay positive. That positive outlook results in a more open mind and behaviours that are more likely to deliver positive results.
Repeat your message
One technique was the simple recognition that, when you want someone to change or take a new course of action, it’s not unusual for it to take 5 to 15 times of repeating the message before it really sinks in. Most of us give up after about 3 attempts, so we don’t stand a chance of our message really being understood. She recognised that she expected people to listen, hear and understand in one or two repetitions and thought that her view was not wanted if she got no response. She will now be more persistent, especially when she strongly believes in her proposal.
ABC approach to staying positive
The other was the ABC model: Adversity – Belief – Consequences. For those interested, this was developed by Dr Albert Ellis, psychologist, and made more popular by Martin Seligman, Positive Psychologist.
Imagine this scene: You are working late (again) and there are a few others in the office. Dave is leaving and says to Paul, “We’re off to the pub, join us!” But he doesn’t say anything to you.
You feel put out because you’ve been ignored and think ‘They don’t like me, I’m an outsider”.
Subsequently, you put no effort into getting to know them better and are pointedly busy when working late, using your body language to discourage approaches.
What is going on here?
|A There was an adverse event||Dave didn’t include you|
|B You reacted to it emotionally in the moment and told yourself a story about the event, when you formed a belief about the situation||Feel put out and ignored“They don’t like me, I’m an outsider”|
|C which consequently led to subsequent behaviour to prove your story/belief right||No effort to get to know them, pointedly busy, discourage approaches|
Let’s run this scene again:
You are working late (again) and there are a few others in the office. Dave is leaving and says to Paul, “We’re off to the pub, join us!” But he doesn’t say anything to you.
You notice that you feel put out, then say to yourself, ‘but I was clearly engrossed and not ready to leave and I don’t really know Dave, so he probably didn’t want to disturb me.’ You smile at Paul as he leaves and say, “see you tomorrow”, he responds and asks, “If you’re done, maybe you’d like to come too?”
The positive thinking and belief formed lead to such different consequences – which would you rather have?
To stay positive, I recommend using the ABC model in the moment to check your ‘story’ and make sure you are not making unfounded assumptions and reacting to those negatively. The initial feeling may come up instantly, but take a moment to check why you are responding that way and when you notice it is unreasonable, tell yourself a different story with a positive belief. You will find you rapidly feel more positive and behave positively.
You can also use the ABC model to analyse past events and reconstruct them. This is especially worth doing with any adverse event, where the consequences are still being played out. You still have time to recover that relationship and get back onto a positive footing.
If you would like to find out more, please contact Amanda. I also welcome your comments below.
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