Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Coping

How To "Magnetize" Your Mind

It is a well-known phenomenon that individuals in the same situation can see events very differently. Every individual comes from a unique perspective, an interpretive filter through which events are viewed.

What causes individuals to be different in their perspectives and their thought patterns? Personal learning history, demographics, and characteristics of the individual come into play.

  • family of origin;
  • cultural background;
  • socio-economic background;
  • religious background;
  • personality style;
  • age;
  • level of maturity;
  • occupation;
  • position in organization;
  • ethnicity;
  • gender; and,
  • value system.

How Personal Factors Affect Interpretations

These personal factors combine to influence how a person habitually thinks. Every person’s thought patterns create unique interpretations of the same objective data. These biases can also lead to possible distortions and misinterpretations of everyday events.

They can give rise to conflicts among people, especially where there are clashes in values. They are the source of expectations and predictions which impact how people interpret the behavior of others. They impact whether people can be objective or whether they are so emotionally involved that they cannot see the situation clearly.

Thought Habits That Repel Or Attract In The Workplace

What are some of the thought habits that create challenges in problem solving and in teamwork in our organizations?

1. Negative vs. positive thought habits. It has been amply demonstrated in research studies that some people have a negative bias; they habitually see what’s wrong rather than what’s right. You don’t have to be convinced of that, for you have had the unfortunate experience of being around negative people. (I hope you’re not among them.) Dr. Martin Seligman’s book, “Learned Optimism”, is an excellent resource on how to develop optimism.

2. All-or-nothing thinking vs.ability to see the gray. Some people only see things in black and white. These are people whose talents lie more in structure and in “right answers”. While this tendency can work well when one is making numerical calculations, it may not work so well in dealing with the complexities of relationships in organizational life. While seeing the gray and the “in-between” may not be their natural talent, it is wise for people with the “all or nothing thinking” habit to be open to others who can find solutions that are not perfect, but workable.

3. Details vs. big picture. Again, the fact is that we need people of all kinds and all talents to accomplish what needs to be done in an organization. We need people who are able to have vision and see the big picture, taking in a vast amount of information at one time. We also need those who can put together a structured plan with a detailed explanation of how things work. However, it is not uncommon for team members who are different in this way to find themselves at odds with each other.

4. Perfectionism vs. realistic standards. Some people have standards that are so high, there is no way that others or themselves could ever reach them. This sets them up for constant disappointment and a tendency to be overly critical of oneself and others. After all, if the acceptable level is “perfection”, the individual is doomed to chronically fail to measure up.

On the other hand, people who have the habit of maintaining realistic, yet high standards are those who are most able to contribute in the workplace. They are not as easily discouraged and are able to be more resilient during setbacks.

5. Sum zero thinking vs. team connectedness. Some individuals have a “sum zero” way of looking at relationships, and this is deadly for teamwork and positive problem solving. In other words, they have the underlying belief that relationships “sum zero”. What this means is, they believe that in order to get “up”, they have to push someone else down. (In other words, +2 and –2 “sum zero.)

When a person is attempting to resolve a problem, sum zero thinking leads to attempts to win over someone else rather than find a mutually helpful solution.

The truth is, team members are connected. If something negatively effects one team member, all suffer for it. When one has a success, it benefits everyone on the team.

6. Victim role vs. responsible role. People who chronically assume the role of a victim, not assuming personal responsibility for actions, consistently detract from workplace effectiveness. They have the attitude that “it’s all their fault”, leading to the conclusion that “if they would just change, everything would be all right.”

Conversely, the responsible and mature person looks for ways within the situation that he or she can make a positive difference. He or she understands that it would be more convenient if others would change. However, this isn’t always possible. Further, the responsible individuals know that what others do is outside their control. They look for ways to improve the situation, no matter what others are doing.

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

back to stress and coping

linkedin video blogs new morning

Become more successful at work and home by applying tips in Dr. Bev’s monthly ezine. Sign up now!

Post Office Box 17918

2013 Hardy Street

Hattiesburg, MS 39401


Copyright © 2017 -- Dr. Bev Smallwood. -- All Rights Reserved | Web Development By: Hartfield Creative

Post Office Box 17918 • 2013 Hardy Street • Hattiesburg, MS 39401 • 601.264.0890 • 877.can.lead (266.5323)