My son-in-law wisely chose not to loan me his expensive power drill for my recent project of drilling holes in the bottoms of several flowerpots, which forced me to go out and buy the least expensive drill I could find. In asking the clerk for help and explaining that I had never owned a power tool of any kind and really needed specific instructions on how to use it, I was told it was very easy to use. Perhaps at this point, I should have asked if that meant it was easy for licensed contractors or easy for people like me, but I said nothing.
No problem to use, the clerk informed me, while also reminding me that I had to buy bits as well since they don’t come with the tool. I had assumed what I needed came in one package, but after getting help selecting the drill bits, I asked one more question: “What do I need to know to put the bit in the drill?” The answer was, “Not a thing, just put it in — it’s that easy.”
As you might have guessed, that wasn’t the case. I put it in, and it fell out. I put it in and tried to turn it and looked for a small hole to insert the bit in. Nothing. The directions said to put the bit in backward and forward to lock it in, so I rotated the little black moving top back and forth but again nothing happened. After I reread the instructions and called the place I bought it, I assumed one of two things: either the clerk has mistakenly told me something that was untrue or I was very poor at following instructions — a bit of both seemed to be the case.
My point? We explain things based on our knowledge base, and to this clerk, putting in a drill bit is the easiest thing in the world. For a middle-aged woman who knew nothing about tools, there were a few more mandatory steps to use the drill; however, those were assumed knowledge and so were not mentioned. This article could be about how to be an effective communicator, but instead, it’s about something else incredibly important: how our internal dialogues shape or sabotage our successes.
When I started feeling frustrated, I also started thinking about how poorly I followed directions and how everyone else on the planet would have had no issues with setting up the drill, which is what we often do if we’re told something and we don’t grasp it instantly. The same mentality has us second-guessing ourselves in meetings, editing what we say to bosses, apologizing for things before we say them and other work place behaviors. Called negativity bias, it means that we typically think the worst when given alternatives; this has helped our species survive because we focus on the dangers around us, which has kept us repopulating the planet. But, in today’s world without man-eating animals or other dangers lurking on every block, we don’t need this type of negative habitual thinking.
As we look at industry trends in this issue, there is one trend that will not change without intervention: We humans will continue to become frustrated with ourselves, and the quicker we learn how to change this mentality, the more effective and successful we’ll be.
For starters, our thoughts aren’t necessarily always true, but we see them as if they are indisputable. As an example, the next time you’re in a meeting and someone is abrupt to you, pay attention to the thoughts that could be splashing through your mind:
• I obviously said something dumb or incorrect.
• I’ve done something wrong.
• What’s wrong with me?
• Oh well, it’s like being back in high school when I knew I screwed up but didn’t know how.
And then, realize that how you choose to see this person’s behavior will impact how you act, your demeanor and, much of the time, the outcome of the encounter. Yes, that individual may lack emotional intelligence and be a jerk, but that mindset will not help you. That person could also be suffering from a toothache, have recently lost an account or any number of other things. We need to use the QTIP acronym to remind ourselves to Quit Taking It Personally and then decide to see the situation differently in order to move on with our own more positive agendas.
You can rewrite reality by changing beliefs, which is incredibly useful regardless of where you are in your career or how many degrees you may have — we all feel vulnerable or frustrated at times. As an example, if you had a car swerve in front of you on the highway, you’d probably honk and yell or at least think, “What a jerk!” But, what if you found out that the driver was trying to pull over because her infant son was choking? That would completely change how you saw the situation, which is called cognitive reappraisal. None of us can suppress our frustrations or ignore them, but we can choose to see them differently and it will change how we act, think and feel.
Additionally, since people are buying from you, promoting you or ignoring you based largely on how they react to your nonverbal cues, changing how you think is incredibly important for your future. Another way to look at it is from the direction of self-compassion, which is necessary for all great leaders. If we can’t be confident in who we are and the mistakes we make, how on Earth can we be great leaders, employees and friends?
Next time you get frustrated when you can’t figure out how to do something or don’t do it to the level of perfection you’d like, realize that you’re temporarily feeling annoyed with yourself and then change your mindset. Choose kindness, give yourself a break and realize there are numerous other folks out there who might also be having difficulties with the same thing you’re challenged by.
Finally, remember that we don’t have time to dwell on something we did wrong; instead, we need to get back on track right away because we are judged by the first impressions we make, and those impressions will be formed by how we’re feeling and how we reflect those feelings. Our reptilian brain, in charge of the primal instincts and reflexes that kept our ancestors alive, will size up someone in seconds, so we do not have a lot of time to make good impressions.
One of the best ways to stay on track in today’s hectic business environment is to warm up with visualization. Visualizing means getting into the state or feeling that you want. If you need more confidence before you get up to speak to 50 people, then remember a time you were at your most confident, bring in that feeling and see yourself on a big movie screen behaving the way you want to feel. Add music or something that will give you more energy, and really live and breathe in that reality.
Think about it: If you are a serious runner, you don’t go out to start a long race without warming up. And if you are a dedicated businessperson, you want to be your best in any situation despite what you might be telling yourself, so you need to warm up intellectually and emotionally. One excellent way to stay in shape cognitively is through visualization, which not only helps us create what we want right now but also does double duty by releasing some of those feel-good chemicals like oxytocin to help us demonstrate even more confidence and presence wherever we go. Our confidence creates our reality, and if we can “see” a more successful outcome, then why not use it to our advantage?
By the way, I finally got the drill bit to stay in, with some help from someone who actually uses tools, and it was a pretty simple process. But, to the novice, it was unfamiliar and difficult to do. I quit berating myself for not figuring it out and decided to give myself a break; maybe the tool salesman doesn’t know some of the things I know how to do — or at least that’s the way I’m choosing to see it.
JENNIFER WEBB’S extraordinary programs combine magic, psychology, NLP, Emotional Intelligence and other disciplines to reach people instantly with messages of inspiration and content. Business communications specialist, performance coach, author of four books on human potential and motivational magician/speaker with a background and graduate degree in psychology, Jennifer teaches how to increase peak performance and create and reach goals. Her client base ranges from Honeywell Space Systems to Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Microsoft, American Airlines, the U.S. Navy and Airforce and leaders in numerous industries. She also served as a personal power coach for CBS Morning News, Reno affiliate for three years.