How to think straight when bad things happen

When bad things happen we may have an emotional struggle

In difficult times our self talk can be harsh – like a radio turned up high – it drowns out everything else

When bad things happen they result in emotional struggle. You know what that is – the dialogue you have with your inner voice.

It often talks us out of doing something we want to do. But, in times of turmoil it can be hard to figure out exactly what to do – and even what is going on. However, psychological distance can both help gain acceptance and an objective, rational view of our feelings.

Rational thinking is hard to do in the midst of harsh self-talk we are often subject to when things are tough. It’s like a radio with the sound turned up high. It’s telling us off and berating us. What we want to do, if only we could, is to turn the sound down. The good news is that researchers* have found that we can gain psychological distance and treat self-talk as just, well, thoughts. The struggle then becomes less real and less painful – and has less power over us.

The research* showed that a small change in your self-talk – using your name rather than I, me or mine (personal pronouns) – does the trick. Here are some illustrations to show the difference:

Table Shows Friendly, Positive and Rational Advice – Use Your name

Scenario Self-talk using personal pronoun Self-talk using your name
Henry’s fear of using escalators “I’m afraid to get on an escalator” “Henry, just step onto the escalator”
Grace goes blank in exams “I just can’t do exams” “Grace, of course you can. Just walk into the room and do the exam you’ve revised for”
Sophia is anxious when she meets new people and gets tongue tied “I’m an idiot for avoiding new people” “Sophia, you can talk to new people, just go and do it”
a small change in your self-talk makes it akin to giving a friend advice

Use your own name in self-talk – makes it friendly and positive

Psychological distance makes self-talk akin to giving a friend advice. It helps us to be kind, objective and rational, to think straight, in fact.

The ‘think straight’ researcher* was inspired to undertake his research when he heard Nobel peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai tell her self-talk story (http://ow.ly/RuQzu). Her self-talk dialogue goes like this:

Q: “If the Taliban comes, what would you do Malala?”

A: “Malala, just take a shoe and hit him.”

Malala is Malala Yousafzai, is the young Pakistani female education activist who was shot by the Taliban for daring to go to school. She is also the youngest-ever person to be awarded the Nobel peace prize.

If you want to know more about this research* there is an excellent Psychology Today article here https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201505/the-voice-reason

*Kross, E (et.al), (2014) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 106, No 22, 301-324

Reach us at 07779 345 499, m.raymond@mwrconsulting.co.uk

Marjorie Raymond

Marjorie Raymond

T: 07779 345 499

E: m.raymond@mwrconsulting.co.uk

We have experience in developing senior managers and their team members – both on an individual and team level – so they can develop practical approaches that encourage positive, constructive behaviour. This, in turn, leads to the development of positive beliefs and values. We are ready work with you, to help you get the best out of your people.

Here are some examples of approaches that can be used and tailored to your individual needs:

  • Certified ACT practioner
  • Support if you are being bullied, or have a member of your organisation who has made a bullying complaint
  • Certified Mediation practioner, to address workplace conflict,
  • Personal development activities
  • Individual and group coaching…Coaching – a powerful way of developing people
  • Psychometric assessment, which can identify strengths as well as derailing behaviours and also include 360 degree feedback
  • Structured module for understanding the psychological contracts in your organisation, both at an individual or team level
  • Straight Talking: …Straight Talking create change through conversations
  • Special projects, secondments and assignments

Photos by:

  1. Courtesy of stockimages
  2. courtesy of Kittikun Atsawintarangkul at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  3. courtesy of Malala Fund @MalalaFund

 

 

Providing positive emotional support – ACT – during change through ‘values’

CT aligns individual and team values with organisational goals

ACT aligns individual and team values with organisational goals

During changing times, many people, leaders especially, find it hard to let go of the learnt ‘control’ behaviours that have brought them success in the past. Moving away from such behaviours towards new ones isn‘t easy. ‘Change support’ can help greatly. It offers people at all levels methods by which they can:

  • work effectively and productively with change, to achieve workable outcomes they can live with
  • use everyday psychological processes in a constructive way, to develop different leadership styles and organisational behaviours

The use of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is one way of doing this. It emphasises personal and team values by encouraging people and teams to behave both consistently and in a way that reflects their values. In this way, ACT aims to:

  • advance psychological flexibility
  • help maximise everyone’s potential
  • enhance vitality and reduce suffering

Aligning everyone’s goals

ACT has been used to help people and organisations during times of change and also as an ongoing part of employee wellbeing and engagement activities. It aligns individual and team values with organisational goals. It also recognises the distress and emotional disturbance that often comes with change. But it doesn’t have a great title, does it? However, the acronym ACT summarises the approach well:

Accept your reactions and be present
Choose a valued direction – do what matters
Take action

Together these build psychological flexibility. It is very valuable for individuals involved in and affected by change. ACT looks at a person’s character traits and behaviours to help develop a coping style. It addresses issues such as: how committed you are to making changes? And how do you stick to your commitments and goals?

It is not an antidote to emotional disturbance and pain. It is not about avoidance. Rather, by encouraging value-driven action, it both helps build acceptance and enhances personal effectiveness in difficult moments, such as when your job is insecure or when specific job demands are made. Perhaps for greater speed against tightening deadlines?

Such circumstances can leave you feeling you’re not good enough or are being coerced. You can also feel unsettled about the future. When many people and teams start to feel like this it has a destructive effect on an organisation’s productivity. It can estrange people from both the organisation and the team.

ACT has been shown to help individuals and teams in these circumstances. For instance, it can alter feelings as in the examples below:

From To
I’m not OK I’m OK; you’re OK
Defensiveness and feeling threatened Openness and curiosity
Stuck, rigid and reactive In touch with emotions; able to manage emotions
Harshly self-critical and, generally, judgemental of others Self-acceptance; acceptance of others

ACT enhances wellbeing by overcoming such negative thoughts and feelings. It starts by using meditation or ‘Mindfulness’ for a short time every day (see previous blog post). This post provides hints and tips to help you try mindfulness out. You can see the blog post here: http://mwrconsulting.co.uk/?p=9139

Anyone can learn Mindfulness. It’s simple yet challenging. And you can do it anywhere and at any time – the results have been shown to be life changing.

Please get in touch with Marjorie Raymond, on 07779 345 499, or email m.raymond@mwrconsulting.co.uk, if you would like to talk about ACT and Mindfulness.

Reach us at 07779 345 499, m.raymond@mwrconsulting.co.uk

Marjorie Raymond

Marjorie Raymond

T: 07779 345 499

E: m.raymond@mwrconsulting.co.uk

We have experience in developing senior managers and their team members – both on an individual and team level – so they can develop practical approaches that encourage positive, constructive behaviour. This, in turn, leads to the development of positive beliefs and values. We are ready work with you, to help you get the best out of your people.

Here are some examples of approaches that can be used and tailored to your individual needs:

  • Certified ACT practioner
  • Support if you are being bullied, or have a member of your organisation who has made a bullying complaint
  • Certified Mediation practioner, to address workplace conflict,
  • Personal development activities
  • Individual and group coaching…Coaching – a powerful way of developing people
  • Psychometric assessment, which can identify strengths as well as derailing behaviours and also include 360 degree feedback
  • Structured module for understanding the psychological contracts in your organisation, both at an individual or team level
  • Straight Talking: …Straight Talking create change through conversations
  • Special projects, secondments and assignments