Resilience – Ambushed By Your Thinking Style? Part 1
Thinking styles are the ways in which we generally process information. Our brains cannot assimilate and play back all of the sensory information we take in at any point in time, so we often simplify things so we can process them more quickly. These styles can affect our ability to be resilient if we don’t recognize them in time, and know how to deal with the subsequent mental processes and emotions.
In the interest of time, I’m going to split this topic into several blogs. I know you are busy, and generally spend about 30 – 45 seconds skimming for vital information – so set your stop watch, and we’ll briefly cover some thinking styles that can sap your resilience quotient faster than my kitchen sink drains.
Making Assumptions – Let me speak to the parents of the world right now. How often have you taken the giant leap that something horrible happened to your child because they didn’t come home exactly when they said they would be home? Or, once you have entered the empty nest phase, that your children don’t love you because they don’t call every week?
Now, let’s take this into the work environment. What thoughts jump into your mind when your boss calls and leaves a relatively pointed message to “come see me as soon as you get into the office this morning”? If you are like most people, you immediately wonder what you did wrong. The next step in the process is to begin searching your memory for everything you did over the last several months to try to figure it out before you go see the boss.
What we are talking about here is worrying about something before you have all the facts. You may immediately experience loss, leading to sadness and depression, and because it seems our beliefs often surface in multiples, you may experience future threat, leading to anxiety. Because you don’t have the facts to guide your thoughts, and you are making conclusions based upon assumptions, you have lost control of your thinking and your emotions.
I have often spoken about intuition, and how I believe we need to pay more attention to it. Are you confused? Here is where I think the difference lies. Intuition is valuable in letting us know that we need to take a stronger look at something. If there is danger involved, it’s often best to act quickly, and intuition helps us do that. Most of the time, however, intuition is alerting us to the need to ask clarifying questions; to seek more information. It rarely requires us to act first and clarify later. Intuition should be treated as conjecture or supposition until you have tested it to make sure it is accurate.
Let me give you an example: Several years ago, I received the exact same pointed message on my voice mail at the office: “Come see me as soon as you get into the office this morning.” I did all the things I mentioned above, because of the pointedness and tone of my boss’s voice. I tried hard to think of what I could have done wrong. My project was ahead of schedule, and we were under budget. My staff was relatively happy, and things were moving right along. I hadn’t broken any HR rules that I knew of. I was 5 minutes late to work several days ago, but I knew that rarely caused issues because I regularly worked into the early evening and most of my co-workers walked in after I did, including my boss. I was stumped, but I was anxious. I took a deep breath, and walked down the hall and around the corner to see what was coming. As I walked past her conference room, she stepped out and asked me to come in. Of course, that startled me. I walked through the door only to see my colleagues and several managers assembled in the room, wearing party hats and anxiously awaiting their piece of the cake – celebrating my 20th year with the company. “Surprise!”, they yelled. Needless to say, there was a lesson to be learned in that.
Selective Screening – This thinking style comes about because of the bombardment of sensory information throughout our day that is impossible for us to assimilate at any one time. Therefore our brain shortcuts the process by screening and registering the details of our environment – and focuses us on those things to which we are predisposed. This predisposition comes from our belief about ourselves and our world. If our core belief is that people do things to deliberately derail us, everything in our environment will be seen through those eyes. If we believe we don’t communicate well, every time we get up to give a presentation, we will see our audience’s behavior in that light. We most often screen information from a negative perspective because of an innate need for survival. However, screening can be developed around positive beliefs we have of ourselves, not allowing us to see behaviors from others that don’t mesh with what we “know” to be true.
Can you think of a time you were unable to pull a project together, but were confused because the people working for you appeared to be on board but didn’t follow through with their assignments? Did you miss the signs of disagreement with the vision you presented?
How do you avoid being ambushed by assumptions and selective screening?
- Assumptions are made in the moment. The best way to avoid this particular entrapment is to recognize when you are making an assumption, and seek clarification and knowledge. Once you have a more complete understanding of the situation, you are able to make a great decision without the emotion attached to an assumption.
- Become more aware of how you typically screen information, and why. When you have created that self-awareness, you are more able to look at a particular situation and take a step back to view the entire picture rather than one specific piece. Practice building a broader perspective, which will enable your brain to process information on an equal opportunity basis.
Georgia Feiste, owner of Collaborative Transitions, located in Lincoln, NE, is a life transitions coach, writer, and workshop facilitator. She specializes in career and personal life transitions for people seeking change in their life. Georgia is uniquely skilled in providing support and encouragement as her clients set intentional goals to attain their desires, holding open the space they need to stretch and grow. Her passion is success grounded in purpose and passion, standards of integrity and priorities in life. Her website is http://www.collaborativetransitions.com, where she blogs about business and career, and http://www.rainbowbridgecoach.com , where she and many other coaches blog about mind, body, spirit and emotion. Georgia can be reached at (402) 484-8098.