I have a client, for the purposes of confidentiality, we shall call her Debra.
She is incredibly well respected within her organisation, on the fast track to Partnership, gets great results for her clients and junior members of staff are lining up to work with her.
Debra is also exceptionally good at creating stories about what other people think about her.
In fact, she’s so good at it, I would say it’s her superpower!!!!
To give you an example, Debra had been working with a Junior Associate on a project, when the project came to an end, the Junior Associate asked if he could be moved to a different team. Debra decided this was because the Junior Associate didn’t like her.
She had no evidence to back this up, she didn’t consider that the Junior Associate might:
- Be keen to try a different type of work.
- Want to expand his expertise in a different industry.
- Work on a project closer to home.
- Be keen to build his network and work for a different Manager.
There’s a plethora of reasons why the Junior Associate may have wanted to move but Debra was absolutely convinced it was because he didn’t like her.
As another example, Debra would really like to become a mentor for an internal talent development programme. She has decided that since nobody has approached her to mentor junior colleagues, the talent development team doesn’t think she would be suitable.
Again, she has no evidence to back this up, she didn’t consider that the talent development team:
- Leave things to the last minute so always return to the mentor pool they have used before rather than trying to recruit new mentors.
- Thought that Debra already has so many commitments that she would never say yes.
If any of this is familiar and you find yourself making up stories about what other people think about you, then I want to encourage you to ask yourself:
- Is that true?
- Is it absolutely true?
- What happens when you believe that thought?
- What would happen if you believed something different?
For example, if you believe that somebody you work with doesn’t like you:
Is that true?
Yes, it’s true, they never invite me to social events and they are always very abrupt when speaking to me.
Is it absolutely true?
They tend to be abrupt with other people as well so maybe that is just their style. Come to think of it, I have never invited that person to a social event outside of work so why should they invite me?
What happens when you believe that the person doesn’t like me?
I feel defensive and on my guard. Perhaps I’m not as friendly with that person which then leads to a cycle of them not being particularly friendly with me.
What would happen if you believed the person did like you?
We would be able to have a more open and amicable relationship. I wouldn’t be reading in to their behaviour all the time and perhaps I would enjoy spending time with them more.
Asking yourself these questions allows you to approach the situation rationally. By taking the emotion out of the situation you can then better assess what is happening rather than creating stories in your head that may or may not be true.
If you would like a conversation about the unhelpful stories that hold you back, then feel free to book my diary to talk about Career Coaching – I’d love to help you – here is a link to my diary.
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