18 May Catch Yourself Doing Something Right (for a change!)
If you’ve ever managed or supervised someone, you know that there’s an empowering way to hold their usual employee feedback conversation:
- Start it by telling them what you see they’ve been doing well. In this way, you’re acknowledging them for the results that have contributed to your business or organization.
- Then go to the areas where you’d like to see them improve. To bring those up to the same level of excellence they’ve demonstrated elsewhere.
- See if they may need assistance developing new skill-sets to do the above.
Of course, this only works with people who you know are already doing their best. It may not work for people with unusual difficulty keeping their promises for results.
Now here is a great question: How do we have this feedback conversation with ourselves? Let’s look at you (and me) when giving ourselves feedback. I’ve coached so many people who don’t treat themselves the same way they’d treat someone else. Take Sally’s example:
Sally: “ I don’t know why I do it, but I have this constant ‘inner critic’ that’s always there, telling me what I’m doing wrong! Take yesterday, for example. I was supposed to be at a Zoom meeting with our regional reps at 10 am. I had a hard time getting into the meeting. I mean really hard! The code wasn’t working. I finally texted a colleague, and he sent me the correct code. I was 11 minutes late! During my frantic attempts to get into the meeting, this ‘inner critic’ starts with ‘They’re going to find out I’m incompetent ‘ and ‘What’s wrong with me?’ This inner rant leads me to feelings of shame: ‘I’m so stupid! I should have tried to get in at least 10 minutes before the meeting! I have an essential piece of information to give to the team!’ All this is going on in my head because I was a little late. AND, to top it all off, three other people had a hard time getting in and came to the meeting 15 minutes later!
There you have it! That strong “inner critic” voice that’s always looking out for what we’re doing wrong instead of what we’re doing that’s right!
How do you experience your own harsh critic? What’s that voice like? The one that’s there, waiting for you to make a mistake, whether real or imagined?
Reading Sally’s words above, you and I could probably see what she did that was competent rather than something she should be ashamed of! But it’s hard for her (and all of us) when we’re absorbed into the words themselves. There’s no space between us and what we hear our brain saying.
In other newsletters, I’ve talked about that aspect of our brain that’s always looking for what could go wrong. Some scientists call it the Negativity Bias! It’s a leftover from at least 100,000 years ago when life generally was much more dangerous than today.
So: what to do to “head this Negativity Bias off at the pass”? We practice catching ourselves doing something right! We strengthen our brain’s ability to discern what’s working!
Like any aerobic activity or strength training, the going may be slow initially. But I promise you, the more you practice, the more resilient your brain becomes when the Negativity Bias swings into action. You begin to take your thoughts less seriously. and you may find yourself laughing at behaviors that used to trouble you.
When laughter is present, learning becomes more effortless and trouble-free!
Here’s your “doing something right” plan. You need a small notebook and pretend that you are your own supervisor or manager. Well, in truth, you already are!
- Catch yourself in the act, Part 1: Make it a point to notice at least one time each day when you’ve handled a potentially difficult or unpredictable situation “right.” In being your own manager, remember to be specific about what you did.
- Catch yourself in the act, Part 2: Resolve to do at least one thing right each day. For example, you decide to come to meetings at least 5 minutes early for the whole day. How does it feel?
- Whenever you can do this, notice when you start self-critical thinking throughout the day. You make a mistake and misspell the name of a leader you have asked to appear on a Zoom meeting panel. Instead of “lapsing” into what you did wrong, notice what you’re doing “right” to handle the situation!
- Finally, at the end of each day, make a list in your notebook of the times you caught yourself doing something right that day. Be clear. Remember, you’re gathering evidence for your abilities to creatively problem solve your way through life.
Try this out for ten days. What has shifted while you apply this perspective? You are presenting your brain with an alternate reality. One in which you are present as the reflection of who you really are: a human being with the power to shape how your brain responds to everyday situations. Congratulations!
Wishing you all my best,