A young woman steps into the elevator moments before her boss does. Earlier that day, she had delivered what she thought was a well received presentation to her team. No acknowledgement is made on the ride to the lobby. Our junior executive jump-starts the following silent dialogue as the car descends:
• I blew the talk • I embarrassed myself and my team • I shouldn’t have volunteered to present • I’ll never be promoted • I hate this job • I should have gone to medical school • I’m too old now • My husband never supported my dream • I’m asking for a divorce when I get home
An extreme reaction? Perhaps, and yet how many times have we had an over the top response to the perceived behavior of someone else? If so, you are not alone and while we can snicker at the very detailed internal responses in the previous example, this negative self-talk took mere seconds from beginning to end. How many times in the course of the day do you engage in other sorts of negative thinking that in the long term is like a slow, toxic drip? Keep in mind that the average person has over 10,000 thoughts in a 24-hour period.
There is no evidence in this encounter that her boss’s behavior could have been attributed to a poor performance by our presenter. In fact, she was preoccupied with other pressing issues and completely unaware of her fellow elevator riders. According to Ben Battner, author of The Blame Game, “For most people, the fear of being blamed looms larger than the hope of getting credit. This means that in an attempt to avoid risk, people often make the wrong choice- or no choice at all.”
So, how can mini dramas like this be short circuited in the future? We can take deliberate steps to prevent our minds from getting hijacked by pessimism, muffle the inner naysayer and identify the source. • Slow down…you are not powerless • Ask yourself why you are feeling so sensitive at that moment • Is your reaction reasonable based on the facts or a fall back habit? • Identify someone you can share this with for reliable feedback • Slow down…you can change your self-talk
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