How Do You Explain Negative Events?

How do you explain negative events?

I don’t mean, how do you describe negative events to a friend. What I really want to know is, how do you explain negative events to yourself?

Author Daniel Pink says in his book, To Sell is Human, that how we explain negative events to ourself has a major impact on our resiliency.

Pink writes that “when something bad occurs, ask yourself three questions and come up with an intelligent way to answer each one no.”

Question 1: Is this permanent?

Question 2: Is this pervasive?

Question 3: Is this personal?

Say your boss rejects a marketing proposal you spent days coming up with. You poured hours of hard work into creating a brilliant strategy. Or at least you thought so.

You boss thought otherwise.

Let’s take a look at Pink’s three questions and see what a no answer looks like vs. a yes answer.

Question 1: Is this permanent?

–          Yes. I am terrible at coming up with ideas. Everything I think of, my boss will hate.

–          No. Maybe this idea didn’t work for this project, but I have other ideas.

Question 2: Is this pervasive?

–          Yes. I am no longer good at marketing.

–          No. I was just a little off at how I proposed the idea because I am sleep deprived from working so late to finish.

Question 3: Is this personal?

–          Yes. My boss hates me. He is a jerk.

–          No. My boss just had a different vision and I will try this idea again on a later project.

Do you see the major differences between a yes answer and a no answer?

Spending time only giving yourself yes explanations is a major downer. Negative events will take their toll on you.

But on the other hand, no explanations make it easier to cope with negative events. You see that there is nothing inherently wrong with you and you can (and will) do better.

A simple yes explanation vs. a no explanation can make a huge difference in how you bounce back.

Pink explains that, “The more you explain bad events as temporary, specific and external, the more likely you are to persist, even in the face of adversity.”

So next time your boss rejects your presentation, your students don’t understand your lesson or your brilliant idea is shot down, ask yourself three questions: Is this permanent? Is this pervasive? Is this personal?

And find a way to answer no to each one!

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