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Big chats, little chats - A 21st Century coaching model: Module 2 - The art of positive mindset and how to challenge ‘wonky thinking’

flip-it_thinking2

At the start of the month we explained how we developed an innovative new coaching model for the 21st Century called Big Chats, Little Chats. The programme has been piloted with O2 and has been hugely successful, boosting retail sales by 23 percent where it’s been used and increasing management engagement scores.

We explained how BC,LC consists of three modules: creating the right environment, FLIP it Thinking and Growth Mindset. Last week we told you how you can create the right environment. This week we are giving away the second module, FLIP it Thinking.

Then next week, you’ll get the final instalment of this gripping series. We don’t want to give away the ending, but we promise you won’t be disappointed. And it’s all free.

FLIP It Thinking

This module guides people in the art of recognising and challenging ‘wonky thinking’ and draws on elements of psychology and neuroscience. It helps people understand how to use focus to identify improvements that can be made, how to use language to create positive mindset, how to use imagination to develop strategies and how to use pattern-breaking to change negative behaviours. The FLIP It model is a toolkit unique to Laughology. It can help people move forward when they are engaged in in-the-moment conversations, and so is a brilliant technique to use when coaching the BC,LC way.

Firstly, what is wonky thinking?

All humans are hard-wired to be led by their feelings. This means that we all have irrational, emotion-led thoughts from time to time. We call this process ‘wonky thinking’.

Consider this common scenario. You’ve missed your train, you’re late for work and your security pass doesn’t work. There’s a conspiracy against you, right? The day is just going to get worse. Everything is ruined. You might as well go back to bed. Of course, that’s not true, the rational part of your brain knows that these are just random irritations and is yelling at you to pull yourself together, but rationality is drowned out by your emotions. This is wonky thinking.

It manifests itself in other ways too. For example, if we have a problem, we trend to go to people who we think like us and who will reinforce our views and agree with us and our wonky thinking. Whereas rationally, in these situations, it is often more helpful to ask someone with a different view.

It’s no secret that at Laughology we love acronyms. And FLIP is one of our best. It stands for:

Focus: 

Empathy is important, but to effectively coach in the BC,LC way, it helps people to move forward if they are encouraged to focus on the facts of the matter, rather than the feelings that a situation has evoked.

Language:

In a coaching scenario, role modelling positive language puts challenging situations into perspective. This ensures that they don’t become catastrophised. Be aware that, when we are thinking irrationally, we are more likely to use language which implies a situation is permanent (‘always’ ‘never’), or that these things only ever happen to us.

Imagination:

As a leader, you can help people to understand that there are often many solutions to problems, then give them time and space to use imagination and think about what they will do differently, going forward.

Pattern breaking:

If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always got. Identifying patterns and encouraging people to take risks and break negative habits will drive progress.

No we’ve explained our acronym, we’ll explain how each element fits into the BC,LC framework.

Focus

By focusing on the underlying context of a chat, you can identify when ‘wonky thinking’ is happening, both in yourself and in others. This increases your ability to ignore the negative thought or actively change it. For example, if someone believes that they can’t do a task, they might be focused on feeling overwhelmed by it. By recognising this and changing the focus to how they will succeed with the task, they are more likely to be successful.

Other common types of wonky thinking are:

All or nothing:

Putting experiences in one of two categories – 'The project will either be perfect or a failure.'

Jumping to conclusions:

Deciding how to respond to a situation without having all the information – 'That person interrupted me in the meeting because she’s just ignorant!'

Mind reading:

Believing that you know how someone is feeling, or what they are thinking, without any evidence – 'I know that customer doesn’t like me.'

Once you learn to focus on the emotional context of a chat, you are better placed to identify wonky thoughts and deal with them, thereby making for more effective and positive exchanges.

Language

Listening to the emotional language someone uses helps you to understand how they perceive the situation they are talking about, and so identify the wonky thoughts they might be having. Always listen out for the pessimistic 3 Ps:

  1. Pervasive and Universal - One problem generalised to all areas of life.
  2. Personal/Internal – Tends to blame self, think it’s ‘all about me’.
  3. Permanent – Feels like the situation will last forever.

For example, in the sentence “That was a complete disaster. I never do anything right,” the ‘I’ is personal, the ‘never’ is permanent and the ‘anything’ is pervasive.

Leaders can limit the impact of the negative experience by saying something like: “So, that customer was a bit tough today, huh?”

This softer language negates the experience. It helps the person move forward in their thinking, as the language is more optimistic, more specific, impersonal, external and temporary.

Imagination

When people are encouraged to imagine a more positive outcome to the one they have experienced, they will be better able to face similar situations in the future. This is using imagination. It can be helpful to ask people to anticipate future challenges, and how situations might play out.

Similarly, thinking about how to deal with challenges differently helps the brain rehearse for if and when they happen again. We can do this by asking questions and exploring the person’s desired intention. For example, if someone has had a tricky conversation with a customer or colleague, we could ask them to model what it would have been like if it had been a positive, successful interaction. What would they have said? How would they be behaving? How might the other person have reacted? How would it feel at the end? You could also ask your team to imagine that they have become the most successful department. What has happened for them to do this? What will they be doing differently?

Pattern breaking

We all have patterns of behaviour. Many of these work in our favour, such as avoiding situations which we know are dangerous. However, some can work against us, such as avoiding new or challenging situations because we think that we might fail.

One of your roles as a leader and coach is to enable people to think about helpful patterns of behaviour that they have, and any unhelpful patterns of behaviour that may have crept into their everyday practice. You can do this by focusing and giving encouragement to people by asking the right questions and giving them the time and space to come up with solutions.

By thinking about habits, behaviours and language patterns, we can recognise which ones are sustaining or blocking a situation from moving forward. We can then decide what we are going to change or evolve, by thinking imaginatively and creatively. We can also start to identify new, positive patterns that we would like to try to work on.

You now have the tools to use FLIP in your coaching sessions. Next week we’ll take you through the final module in the BC,LC programme; growth mindset.

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