Participate in You by John G. Johnson
“I always get nervous”, Peter said, “whenever I’m speaking on the telephone.”
“You mean to tell me that each and every single time when you use a phone you get nervous? Has this been going on since you first learned to use a phone? Are you hiding something and afraid of being caught?” I responded.
What I said to Peter might seem strange. But his statement was loaded with distortions and generalizations begging to be challenged. Sometimes when communicating with someone you have to ‘blow things out of proportion’, exaggerate things, so that when the “dust settles down”, so to speak - specifics remain – the focus of the dialogue is revealed. And that’s just what happened; Peter clarified himself: He was just hired at a company. But whenever a customer asked him questions about a product or service – that he didn’t – yet - know the answer to, he stuttered, his breathing hastened, his mind ‘drew a blank’… This was Peter’s true issue. And he wanted to make a good impression at his new job, so a lot was at stake for him.
Peter’s supervisors intervened - with good intentions – when they realized what has happening. What was their overall strategy to help Peter? “Telling” him what he “should” do to “fix” the problem; basically bombarding him all sorts of theories and concepts. And when those failed, they “told” him another solution; and when that failed as well… they “told” him another solution, etc.
Peter realized that in order to succeed at his new job he needed two things: ONE, change the state of mind he entered whenever customers asked him questions he didn’t yet know the answer to.
So, instead of just “talking” to Peter I made him an active participant in the exercises and strategies which I assigned him. It’s a more efficient way to learn and to fully absorb whatever it is you want to master. Instead of talking about voice-tone and how it influences your state, I had him pay attention to what he was experiencing, what states he was entering and exiting as he practiced using different voice-tones.
THE SECOND thing Peter needed were strategies for dealing with clients who asked him questions he immediately did not – yet- know the answer to. Seeing that personal triumphs also depend on having the appropriate state of mind, I had peter access that specific mind-space where he could creatively generate his own ideas and strategies. We reviewed and tweaked these creative strategies for optimal performance. Having tools for success is one thing. But having the belief and confidence that you can fearlessly put them into action requires that you have in your mind a virtual-database of moments when you were successful because you put these strategies into action … And that’s where mental rehearsal – rehearsal in the past and in the future - and taking part in your own success come into play. I had Peter take his newfound strategies for success and mentally rehearse them in future scenarios. That was fine.
I also had him take these same strategies and apply it to the moments in his past – where he performed poorly with customers. Doing this benefited Peter in several ways: One, it gave Peter the opportunity to see himself practicing and utilizing his newfound strategies; and, two, Peter was able to see and to experience how things would have had already worked to his advantage having applied his newfound strategies to his - past scenarios. “Knowing what you know now what would you have done differently back then with the 'light' of the new choices and options you have.” Of course the past cannot be changed. But you can creatively and successfully use it to your advantage.
Athletes who are at the top of their game know that if their goal is to master a strategy, a technique, etc. they need to rehearse the strategy and sequence not just with their bodies, but also with their minds as well. Mentally rehearsing the end desire boosts your confidence, belief about your capabilities as well. Success starts in the mind, and with a mind that has a database of experiential moments you can call upon – as proof that you can replicate success. The point is that talking about an experience is one thing; theory has its limits. Living and experiencing a virtual or a real-world moment is another. And the latter beats theory anytime, and has more impact on an individual - and on you.
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