Wednesday, December 11, 2013

How to avoid the emotional roller coaster ride of the thin-skinned

Do you know someone who bruises easily? Over the weekend, I noticed a big bruise on my husband’s arm. The variations of purple would make any K State fan a fan of the bruise. Bob explained that the bruise is from having blood drawn at the doctor’s office earlier in the week, which led to a discussion about whether the blood taker was incompetent or his skin is just sensitive. We ended up talking about how skin reacts in different situations. Although we talked literally, the same is true figuratively.

Some people are thick-skinned and others are thin-skinned. As Bob deals with the arm bruise, others have to deal with emotional bruises caused by their emotional thin skin.
Thin-skinned people often experience an emotional roller coaster of ups and downs that increase stress, reduce productivity, diminish trust, and damage relationships. Someone who sees setbacks or criticism as major life events lives a painful existence much of the time.

Some people haven’t faced major life challenges, so they think minor setbacks are a big deal. Perhaps their parents removed all opportunity for adversity (don’t get me started on helicopter parenting), or perhaps they haven’t taken many risks. Either way, they have not experienced major challenges, so the minor ones are magnified to them.
Or, the opposite could be true. Perhaps the thin-skinned people faced major challenges and are still reeling from the impact.

If you want to hone your ability to bounce back after life challenges or adversarial interactions with others, consider the following strategies:
  1. Release past adversity. Harboring insecurities from the past is not helping you thrive today.
  2. Focus externally. Thin-skinned people often are internally focused, but focusing on others can help you see the adverse situation more clearly.
  3. Accept advice. Build relationships with a support network you will trust to advise you when obstacles arise. Thin-skinned people often have a defeatist mindset, but if you have a close network who will tell you the truth, they can help toughen you up.
  4. See the big picture. In the “All-In” book and sessions, I talk with people about seeing the bigger picture of their day, tasks, work, lives. When we are focused on the mundane, or negative situations, they can overtake everything else. Seeing the big picture helps people stop sweating the small stuff. It also helps people focus on their own goals instead of others’.
  5. Think positive. No, skipping up and down the halls whistling Zippity Doo Dah will not help thicken your skin. But, recollections of triumph can. When you’re down and out, recall other successes and let those inspire you to work through the current situation.
  6. Reframe the situation. Instead of dwelling on the adversity for the challenges, reframe it so you see the possibilities. Draw a vertical line down the center of a sheet of paper. On the left, list the parts of the situation that are not going well or that you do not like. On the right, list the possible outcomes and the benefits of going through this. Use that sheet to help you position the situation for solutions instead of failure.
  7. Develop scar tissue. A great way to get thick skin is to be in situations that require you to use thick skin. So, seek advice and feedback from others. It is not easy hearing criticism, and some people are not great at delivering it, but it will help you toughen up.
  8. Apply what works. Although the criticism or setback can sting, consider what would be useful in moving your forward. Take the parts you can use and let the rest go.
If you develop a more favorable cognitive emotional pattern, you can develop thick skin that enables you to thrive during setbacks from major life challenges to minor criticisms. Also, be aware of how your actions inflict pain on others and try not to bruise other people. In the immortal words of Michael Stipes, remember, “Everybody hurts, sometimes.”

Quote du jour
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday, December 2, 2013

Winners expect to win in advance

Did you watch football over the weekend? Whether you watched college or professional football, or even the news, you saw a clip of one of the most exciting plays in sports history.

During the tied Alabama v. Auburn game, with one second left on the clock, Alabama attempted a field goal for the win. Since Alabama was ranked #1 and has won three of the last four national championships, it was reasonable to assume the kick would go through or the game would go into overtime.
An Auburn player did not make that assumption. He caught the ball as it missed the uprights, and he ran it out of the end zone 107 yards all the way down to the other end to score a game-winning touchdown. Auburn not only won, they prevented their rival from being #1 and winning another national championship.

The play has been shown on all of the newscasts because of the timing, championship implications, and run length. The most astounding aspect to me, however, is that the Auburn player was positioned in the end zone ready to catch the ball. We’ve all seen last-minute kicks with empty end zones. I don’t recall seeing any with opponents positioned to catch the ball if it misses.

Winners position themselves for greatness. They don’t show up on game day expecting to win. They prepare for months, years even, to be ready to win. The Auburn player was physically capable to catch the ball and out-run others, he was mentally ready, and he was in the right position. He was ready so when the opportunity came, he took it. He took it 107 yards.
If he had not physically and mentally prepared himself, his location on the field would not have mattered. He was positioned for success deliberately by himself and his coaches.

So what? How is that touchdown relevant to us?
In your job, you're not running touchdowns to win; however, we all need to position ourselves for victory just like that football player did. We have to be physically competent in that we have to hone the right skills that matter to clients today. We have to be mentally prepared to face challenges and adapt. We also have to be positioned to win. We have to anticipate client needs, market shifts, and changing demands of our industry.

It’s not that different from the football player.
Are you ready? Are you preparing for the opportunity, so that when it arrives, you are positioned for greatness? We have to position ourselves and our companies for greatness deliberately because we expect to have opportunities. We expect to win.