How do you talk to yourself when you make a mistake or do something that, in hindsight, you might describe as silly?

Down the pan

I ask because I dropped my mp3 player last night.  I’ll leave where I dropped it to your imagination. Suffice it to say that it’s drying out slowly, and my electronic engineer husband thinks there’s a good chance it will work when it’s stopped being damp.

In the microseconds after I had retrieved it (I didn’t know I could move that fast when I was half asleep) I caught myself berating me for my stupidity.  But not for my behaviour, you understand.  Before I had chance to draw breath, the gremlin on my shoulder was in full flow, telling me how stupid I was, how completely ridiculous for expecting the earphone plug to take its weight.  And I was right off balance.

Learning and blaming

The reality is that response is a choice.  I can go on berating myself for ‘being stupid’ or I can learn.  In her book, Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, Marilee Adams PhD has a really useful model that she calls the Choice Map.  You can download it from her site. My clients find it really helpful when they’re dealing with difficult situations at work, or learning to manage a team for the first time. And the book is a great read too – the parable of a man who is about to quit his new job because he thinks he’s a failure, and the coach (who else?) who helps him find a more helpful response to his circumstances.

Adams believes that if you set off in judgement mode (‘who’s to blame?’, ‘why am I so stupid?’) you end up in a pit of negativity in which you’ve become the lead in a failure drama. And you feel terrible about yourself and everyone else.

Stop the plop

Once you catch yourself being judgemental, it takes a heartbeat to switch onto what Adams calls the ‘Learner Path’. From there you can make helpful choices. You can get off the self-blame roller-coaster and stop reacting automatically. So much more helpful.

So I’m debating whether to buy the case with the loop for attaching to clothes and bags, or the padded arm band.