The biggest negative impact on performance is an attitude of pessimism. And not many things make a bigger impact on our attitude than the language that we use. When we treat adversity as PERMANENT (“this always happens to me”), PERVASIVE (“this is going to ruin my whole day”) and PERSONAL (“this happened because I’m no good”), then we set ourselves up for pessimism and poor performance. When we use language that is Temporary, Specific and External, we start to make a difference.
This is based on the groundbreaking work of Martin Seligman who continues to get amazing outcomes using his methods.
Let’s break this down for a second and look at the alternatives:
PERMANENT vs TEMPORARY
“This always happens to me.” This essentially says that there is no use in trying to change it because it will always happen.
“This doesn’t usually happen. I wonder if there’s a way I can change it next time.” This actually puts some optimism in the conversation and forces us to look for ways to change the future outcome.
PERVASIVE vs SPECIFIC
“This is going to ruin my whole day” This puts you in a terrible mood and often makes associations based on flawed logic. Just because you got a bad phonecall in the morning, doesn’t mean that the whole day is going to be ruined.
“Oh, well, this will create some other opportunities” This language puts us on the lookout for a positive event and stops us using the negative perception as an anchor for future events
PERSONAL vs EXTERNAL:
“This happened because I’m no good” This deals, like the other language, in absolutes. If you are no good, then what’s the point in trying? This will keep happening regardless of what you do, so you don’t bother doing anything different.
“I wasn’t able to do that because I didn’t have the skills for that situation”. Now, this is something changeable. If you don’t have the skills then you can acquire them. It can be different in the future.