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“Horrible-izing”. How We Can Scare Ourselves When Stressed

In times of wide-ranging, swift and surprising change, it is easy for many of us to think the worst. As we start to think the worst, it’s easy for us to stress ourselves and to “horrible-ize” at the same time. In other words, to imagine “the worst” in every possible way.

With the rapid arrival and global spread of the Covid -19 virus, both stress and “horrible-izing” have increased significantly. There are many people (and you might be one of them) who have been directly, immediately and personally affected by this situation.

In order to help reduce our stress and reduce our tendency to “horrible-ize”, it can be useful to start by understanding how we “horrible-ize” and what we can do about it.

We can start by recognizing that during this challenging time (which we are all experiencing and sharing), it is important that we support and care for each other. Our ability to care for others is directly related to our ability to, first, support and care for ourselves.

To effectively support and take care of ourselves, it helps to understand that our stress levels are tied to the conversations we are having with ourselves in our head all the time. These conservations happen while we metabolize and digest what is happening around us every day (and is always changing).

These conversations are called “self-talk”.

They are the stories or narratives we are telling ourselves in our heads all the time – especially around the fear and change that can be incorporated into this current global unfolding.

The most important thing to understand about self-talk is that most of us “believe” what we are saying to ourselves in our heads. The trap here is when we don’t realize that many of the things we are saying to ourselves may not be true! That’s how we can easily fall into the trap of “horrible-izing”.

Here is an example of “horrible-izing” self-talk:

“This is catastrophic, and this is the worst thing that could have happened to me at the very worst time. I won’t have a job and I’ll never recover – I’m going to lose everything and end up destitute and living on the street with nothing. We’re all doomed!”

The emotions triggered by this self-talk might include fear, anger, blame, anxiety, despair, frustration, abandonment, and betrayal, to name just a few. It’s not healthy and is certainly not helpful. Most importantly, as noted earlier, there’s only a very small chance that this “horrible-izing” self-talk is actually true.

To put it in perspective, let’s look at what is true today.

Are we living in an uncertain, scary and very challenging time? – YES!

Do we know everything that is going to happen? – NO! (but we don’t always know what is going to happen in life anyway)

Is there an effort on the part of business, governments, organizations, and every level of society to figure out solutions to get through this? – YES!

Will this time pass? – YES!

Will you cope and adapt so that you can get on with your life – YES!

Based on these facts, let’s see what a more rational and realistic conversation with ourselves may sound like now. It might sound like this…

“This is certainly a challenging and scary time that we are all living in and going through. However, everybody (including me and my loved ones) are clearly focused on supporting and caring for each other in a way that is quite astonishing and unprecedented.

Or, it might sound like this….

“Even though I know that anxiety, uncertainty and fear are what a lot of us are experiencing (I certainly have days and moments of this, too), I know that we are going to get through this together and come out of it wiser, more caring, supportive, possibly less judgmental and even stronger as a community, a nation and a people.”

Here’s why this modified “self-talk” helps.

When we speak to ourselves this way, we are no longer a “victim” of the circumstances around us. Instead, we become an observer of the circumstance, recognizing that we are all in this together and that it’s not all doom and gloom.

This broader “objective” perspective allows us to come from a more neutral balanced place. As soon as we stop being a victim, we can see more options, more positives, and more opportunities from this “objective” view. That’s the power of changing our self-talk.

It is so important in challenging times like this that we strive to be gentle, supportive and caring about ourselves so that we can be gentle, supportive and caring to others.

When we step back and have a broader global view, it allows us to support and care for each other better. When you do this for yourself first, it will lead to a healthier you and a healthier outcome for all of those around you.

Please take care of yourself, remembering that this time too will pass.

For another blog about how self-talk can cause stress, please click here

How to Stop Wasting Your Money on Training by Understanding “Cause” – Part 2

Do you think that most “people skills” training is a waste of money because nothing changes after the training?

Do you ever wonder why so much behavior-focused “training” doesn’t stick?

Or why someone agrees to change their behavior and really means it – but then they slip back to the “old” behavior that was a problem in the first place?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, this blog may help to make things clearer.

It is a continuation of our earlier blog called “The 6 Major Reasons Why ‘People Skills’ Training Doesn’t Work – and 6 Action Steps to Fix It” which identified 6 reasons why “people skills” training often fails and provided 5 Action Steps to fix it while directing the reader to this blog for the Action Step to fix Reason #6.

The goal of “The 6 Major Reasons…” was to help make training work better.

This blog is dedicated to the 6th reason for the failure of training.

And, it provides an Action Step to fix the problem before moving on to the CLARITY that comes from understanding CAUSE.

  1.    The Learning Focuses only on a Person’s Behavior and Doesn’t Focus on the Cause of the Behavior.

If the training only focuses on behavior itself, it’s predictable that management might conclude that the reason someone doesn’t change after training is simply “bad attitude” or “not paying attention” or even “not enough training”, while the real reason that the training didn’t work is very subtle and consistently overlooked.

For managers, there might be a huge advantage in understanding the real reason or cause why the behavior doesn’t change – so that they can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of employee learning and growth.

Before we jump into the explanation of the real reason or cause why someone doesn’t change, it’s important to agree on the definition of behavior.  Continue Reading

The 6 Major Reasons Why “People Skills” Training Doesn’t Work – and 6 Action Steps to Fix It

Has this ever happened to you?

Your company decides you need to attend a workshop to get enhanced or improved “people skills” on topics like team building or conflict resolution.

Or, it might be training about getting along better with others or something like that.

And, you start to feel frustrated and, sometimes, even resentful.

“Here we go again”, you say.

“Another workshop. More stuff on interpersonal skills. Why bother? Nothing ever changes anyway”.

What’s going on here?

Why does so much training fail, often leading to apathy and resentment among employees?

More important, how can you, as a manager, increase the chances of the assigned training being more successful?

In the work we’ve done at Breakthrough Management, we’ve discovered 6 major causes that can often lead to this feeling of frustration and resentment about interpersonal (“people skills”) training. The causes are…

  1. Expectations. People don’t know what’s expected of them after they finish the training.
  2. Presentation and Facilitation. The Training doesn’t Incorporate Validated Adult Learning Theory as it applies to Learning.
  3. The Learning Doesn’t Stick. The Training doesn’t incorporate Validated Adult Learning Theory as it applies to Retention of the material learned.
  4. No Follow-up. There is rarely, if ever, any formal follow-up, either scheduled or management-supported.
  5. Workshop Participants Have Varying Levels of “Skill” Competence. The way the learning is delivered assumes that all the participants attending the workshop are at the same level of “competence” in the relevant skills being taught.
  6. Doesn’t Focus on Cause. The learning focuses only on a person’s behavior and doesn’t focus on the Cause of the Behavior.

This blog provides insight on Action Steps to minimize or avoid these 6 “causes” that consistently sabotage “people skills” training while optimizing the training itself.

Without this insight and these Action Steps, it’s easy to believe that training is a waste of money, which can prompt blogs like this popular read at the Harvard Business Review.

These days, many CEOs and managers recognize that it is critically important to get training right because they know that both training and new skills acquisition are the key to consistently growing a company and staying competitive.

With that backdrop, here are the 6 reasons why training fails and the 6 Action Steps to fix it.  Continue Reading

Why Managers Feel Vulnerable When Dealing With Non-Performance And 3 Things They Can Do To Deal With It.

Has this ever happened to you as a manager?

One of your direct reports doesn’t do what their job (function) requires them to do.

Perhaps they didn’t get a report in on time or they showed up late for work because they slept in or they left out a crucial step in a project which caused a delay in production.

Each of these behaviors is “non-performance”. In other words, the person who reports to you hasn’t “performed” what’s required of them in their function.

And, as a manager, you’re expected to deal with it.

Yet, many managers let it slide, with cascading consequences down the line where the “little” problem has now become a much bigger one with a more serious negative impact on the people or the organization.

Why does this happen and what can you do about it?

Many of our client managers tell us that they really dislike dealing with non-performance and that they feel vulnerable when they do.

Here’s the cause of these feelings.

Most people (not just managers) are uncomfortable with conflict mainly because they interpret disagreement as conflict.

Here’s how this works.

When a manager has to deal with someone’s non-performance, it means they have to “disagree” with how that person is currently behaving.

And, because they interpret this “disagreement” as conflict, they become uncomfortable and, as a result of their discomfort, they give themselves permission not to deal with the non-performance. This happens mostly unconsciously.

What the manager doesn’t realize is that when they do “nothing”, they have actually done “something” – specifically, they have acknowledged that the non-performance is OK, because if it wasn’t OK they would have dealt with it.

When this unconscious “discomfort” response isn’t monitored, it means that they are actually letting their personal discomfort get in the way of effectively dealing with the non-performance issue, which has the potential to create cascading negative consequences.

Although we have dealt with “5 Ways to Deal with Identified Non-Performance” in another blog , our experience has shown that the topic is so critical to successful business that we are expanding it here.

As a manager, there are 3 ways you can help neutralize your discomfort and deal more effectively with non-performance.  Continue Reading

The Value of Understanding What “Maturity” Really Means

“She’s just not mature enough to manage this team”.

“He’s so immature, always getting emotional when people don’t agree with him.”

“She’s really mature for her age. I think she can handle the promotion.”

If you’ve heard comments like this or even said something like it yourself, you’ve stepped into the shape-shifting arena of a word that is often misunderstood and often used negatively to describe a person’s behavior in a given circumstance or on a specific subject or topic.


Why does it matter that we understand the word more deeply?

What’s the value to you of learning more about it?  Continue Reading

7 Critical Factors for Sustained Sales Success

If you want to be a consistently successful sales professional, you can learn a lot from those who continually experience sustained success in their careers.

Specifically, they agree that just 7 factors make the biggest difference.

They are…

  • A sense of urgency
  • Persistence
  • Self discipline and control
  • Planning
  • Never assuming anything
  • Activity-Activity-Activity
  • Follow-up

All 7 are all equally important. One doesn’t take priority over the other.

Instead, they interact as a circle of things that you never stop doing as long as you want to experience sustained success.

Here’s how each of them work.  Continue Reading

“No Respect”: 3 Factors Influencing Why IT Often Doesn’t Get Respect Within the Corporation – and What to Do About It

What’s up with the Information Technology (IT) department in most companies?

Even though they provide a valuable service, they often face challenges in getting the appropriate recognition and respect for their efforts and contributions, in the past or in the present.

To understand this better – and to do something about it – it helps to focus on 3 significant factors that underpin this lack of respect and acknowledgement. They are:  Continue Reading

The #1 Most Powerful Motivator At Work

As a manager, if someone asked you about the #1 most important “motivator” for your employees, what would you say?

Money? A title? Opportunity for growth? A place where all the workers get along without conflict?

Surprisingly, none of these is #1.

There is a lot of research that has explored the most powerful and impactful motivators for people in the work environment and, consistently, one answer tops the list. It is…

“The need to be perceived as being valued.”

The key to this motivator is to understand that it has nothing to do with how you, the manager, think you are “valuing” an employee.

Rather, it has everything to do with how the employee perceives himself or herself as being valued.

In other words, the perception of “being valued” is completely in the eye of the employee.

Understanding this important distinction creates a big opportunity for the Manager to influence the employee to continually motivate themselves to maintain their performance, their focused energy, and their enthusiasm in the workplace.

As a Manager, all you have to do is appropriately ask the employee what “being valued” looks like to them. Then you must be ready (if at all possible) to deliver what the employee believes “ being valued” looks like to them.

Now, here’s the surprising part.  Continue Reading

How to Better Manage Your Time & Prioritize More Effectively

At the restart of any business year, we often hear people say that there is so much to do that they don’t have enough time to appropriately handle all the priorities coming at them, all at once.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.

Especially as you start your New Year, when a number of the issues you have already been dealing with may now have been re-labeled or viewed as urgent, critical or even an emergency.

As a result, a common question is: “How can one get a better perspective on what may feel like a lot of pressure?”

If you’re a manager, “How can you help your people handle their workloads more effectively and efficiently?”

Part of the problem, we’ve discovered, is that the business cultures in many companies have inadvertently and unintentionally “normalized” themselves into the idea that everything is urgent.

Yours may be one of them.

The problem with “normalizing urgency” is that when something is actually urgent, the people in these cultures don’t know how to appropriately deal with it, leading, more often than not, to unwarranted and unnecessary additional stress.

So, let’s start with a simple truth.  Continue Reading

Parenting – The Ultimate Emotional Challenge

One of the cornerstones of effective Self-Management is the ability to consciously manage our emotions.

This critical skill is so important that it features prominently in many of our client workshops, where we focus on Emotional Maturity and the journey to become aware of how we are currently managing our emotions.

It’s no surprise that during the workshops, a lot of parents start to make connections between emotional Self-Management and the relationships they have with their children.

Specifically they make connections about how their Belief System affects their emotions, triggering unconscious and often unwanted behaviors towards their kids.  (Your Belief System is defined as the sum of your cumulative memories and experiences from birth)

These experiential connections are often shocking, humbling, exciting, and challenging. Many participants have told us that it has been “life changing” for them.

As a result, we’ve had a lot of requests for blogs about the parenting insights that are consistently generated during the workshops. Sort of a “top 10”.

Until now, we haven’t posted these insights because it is not a simple subject and a blog post is not the ideal vehicle to address it.

However, it’s time.

So, we will post parenting insights in a series of blogs over the next few weeks. Based on our experience, here are the first few!

Be warned that these points may challenge your existing Belief System around parenting (if you are one) in the same way they challenged our participants.  Continue Reading