October 14, 2008

Thought Trap #2: Overgeneralization

Continuing on in the series on thought traps.

Thought Trap #2: Overgeneralization

You see a single negative event as a never ending pattern of defeat. Phrases like "You always" or "You never" are examples. You hurt someone's feelings and think, "I'm always insensitive." You make a mistake and think, "I never get things right."

Is this one of your public speaking thought traps?

If you forget a portion of your presentation, do you say to yourself, "I never remember anything"? If you go over your time slot, do you say, "I always run out of time"?

One major problem with overgeneralization is that you allow yourself no motivation for change. If you determine that you're "always" or "never" this way, why bother doing anything about it? This is a dangerous thought trap to fall into. It reminds me, in fact, of Carol Dweck's "fixed mindset." Not a healthy place to be, or an easy place to get out of.

Again, here are steps for approaching these thoughts once you become aware of them:

1. Write it down. Writing automatically provides perspective and helps reveal distorted thinking.

2. Identify the distressing event. What's really bothering you?

3. Identify your negative emotions.

4. Identify the negative thoughts tied to your emotions.

5. Identify distortions and substitute the truth.

And my addition:

6. Take action. What will you do differently next time?

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6 comments. Please add yours! :

Anonymous said...

I think there is a problem with this aproach. Your steps force me to actually think about the thing I did wrong. But that is what I am doing anyway all the time. This is the problem.

Just yesterday I recommended on my (german) blog a different aproach: Think, talk and write about something positiv, something that just worked out great. It will give you the warm fuzzy feeling you need to tackle the next talk.

Any mistake will still be somewhere in the back of the head and force you to use one of the successes as a tool against another failure.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Hey Jens,

Thanks for your comment. Different approaches work for different people, so by all means use the approach that works for you. This is just one way to address negative thinking.

Anonymous said...

Nice Post Lisa
Another fixed mindset problem is simply being nervous when you speak. So many people start out their presentations telling people "I'm really nervous." That sets a tone that's hard to overcome.
Joey Asher, President, Speechworks.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

So true, Joey!

Matthew Cornell said...

Absolutely loving the post, and the series. Can't wait for the next 10!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks, Matt!

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