Every day provides tons of opportunities to interpret events. Unfortunately we often default to stories that disempower us, making it that much harder to perform. Creating a negative interpretation of disparate facts is a way we protect ourselves. However, emotions, especially negative ones, take a lot of energy and can result in poor judgment and bad decision making.
Self-management means actively and consciously choosing how you perceive events and people. It helps you manage your energy and impact while influencing the perceptions others have of you and your leadership. And it’s an area completely within your control and directly related to how successful you are —in tangibles like promotions/bonuses as well as intangibles like satisfaction/happiness.
Imagine you’re assigned to work with a high-profile peer you’ve never met. Maybe you feel intimidated, jealous, or threatened by him/her. Since you have no actual experience with this person, your feelings are related to your beliefs about yourself. The kickoff goes well and you’re clear on responsibilities. Then you need something from the other executive and you send an email. You don’t receive a reply. The temptation is to create a disempowering interpretation like, “She/he doesn’t respect me.” Whether or not you’re right, you go through all the emotions your story inspires. And negative stories are exhausting.
Instead, assume a neutral or positive interpretation like, “They must be really busy,” something that is just as likely to be true yet doesn’t waste mental or emotional energy. Beyond being more effective, you interact more appropriately because you aren’t imagining nefarious scenarios.
Beyond the personal benefit you’ll experience by creating neutral/positive interpretations, you’ll be able to help your team see situations more objectively, resulting in better outcomes with a lot less work and stress.