As an adjunct to Robin Cunningham's Coping Skills series, I'd like to present a blog entry, or perhaps a duo or trio of entries, talking about things I've done that prove out his techniques. In this first edition, I'll offer three techniques and show you the positive results.
Skill #1: You have the freedom to decide what's actually happening, that is, to change your perceptions of what's going on. The end result of this could be luck or hard work. Either way, I'll show you how I did it.
I attend a lot of meetings. More than I'd like to. At some of these affairs, we're seated movie theater style to listen to a guest speaker. At others, we mill around talking. If you're socially savvy, you "work the room." Here are some suggestions: Keep an eye out for groups of three people, and skirt the edge. If two people are chatting alone, let them be, or wait for a graceful opening when one person departs. I find it's easier to rotate, rather than glom on to one person for the night. (That could have him or her question you.)
Here's what happened last week at a meeting. We were seated around tables in a U-shape. Always there's the dreaded break time when you can chat or grab coffee or grab coffee AND chat. At the moment the instructor announced the break, I rose to pour a glass of juice. The guy I had mistaken for someone else two weeks ago was standing near the food table. I started talking with him again. That is, I drew him out with questions and let him talk. It's the Dale Carnegie method in action: if you get someone talking about himself, he'll think you're the sparkling wit even though you haven't said a word.
Now, a woman intercepted my new acquaintance on business, so I returned to my seat-the perfect segue to disconnect. Before the guy took his seat, he came over, shook my hand, and asked my name, saying it was nice to talk to me.
OK. How does this fit in with skill #1? "Writing the ending of the story" before it's finished is a faulty cognitive tactic. I could've worried that because I mistook him for someone else two weeks ago, he would've wanted nothing to do with me. Yet, indeed, after I had committed that faux pas, he was comfortable with himself and didn't seem the least bit offended.
It all comes down to Choice. We have the choice as to how we respond to a situation. At the second meeting, I decided to interpret things differently. I told myself, "Maybe he's as nervous as you are at meetings, and welcomed the chance to chat with someone who appeared friendly and interested." Truly, 95 percent of the time, what I fear is all in my head and I haven't been able to read the situation correctly because I've already worked overtime jumping to conclusions.
So how do we reality test if a good friend or therapist isn't nearby to set us straight or calm our jitters? We "act as if" the outcome is going to be favorable. Chances are, it will be. If we elevate our view of a person-even a stranger-he will act according to the high regard we give him.