Why it matters how you walk into a bar
Read time: 4 min
Imagine yourself walking up to a bar where you are supposed to meet a friend. You peek in to see if she is already there. The place doesn’t look particularly inviting: dim lights, large flat screen TV, a handful of people, most of them staring at their cell phones, no music. What a gloomy dump!
As you stand there, your friend arrives, and you are trying to decide. Go in, or retreat and look for a place that’s a bit more lively and cheerful? What would you do? Seriously, what would you do?
This little scene is exemplary for what many of us encounter every day: we run into unpleasant circumstances and have to decide what we want to do about it. Common wisdom has it that we can’t control the environment, all we can do is change our attitude towards it. However, in my experience this saying runs counter to the simple fact that when we change our attitude, we actually will affect our environment. Sure, we can just walk away from the bar, hoping there’ll be something better around the corner. But what if we instead walked in, turned on some music, struck conversations with the people? What if our lively energy was strong enough to bring light to the gloom we encounter? Several years ago, a friend and I both went through a divorce at the same time. We both made a conscious decision to not let us be dragged down by the difficulty of it all. Instead, we saw the new-found singlehood as a chance to rekindle our enthusiasm for life, and so we went out determined to have a good time. And no matter where we ended up, we would turn the place around and make it a fun night. A lot has been written about emotional intelligence. Psychologist Carol Dweck has spent her career on researching why attitudinal factors are better predictors of success than IQ. She explained that people generally fall into one of two categories: A fixed mindset or a growth mindset. With the former, people believe that their basic abilities, intelligence, and talents are fixed traits; with the latter, people see talents, abilities, and attitude as something that can change through effort, good teaching, coaching, and persistence. Shifting our mindset is challenging because it requires us leaving our comfort zone. It takes courage. As Billy Anderson, author of “You comfort zone is killing you,” wrote: “Courage is: being scared and doing it anyways, because the something that you want is bigger than the fear itself.” The more we confront that which scares us, the less it will continue to scare us. So, regardless of which side of the mindset we stand, here are a few steps we can take to change our attitude with time. Understand your current attitude and how you show up in life. Throughout my coaching sessions, I’ve been asking clients to take an Energy Leadership Index assessment. This one-of-a-kind assessment enables people to hold a mirror to their perceptions, attitudes, behaviors and overall leadership capabilities. The ELI provides a baseline for our current level of awareness, performance, and effectiveness. With that, we can then learn how to shift our attitude to present ourselves in a way that inspires others. So, let’s start by paying attention to how we react to certain situations. Ask yourself: In face of adversity, do you fall into a victim mode, or hold anger? Or do you simply tolerate the discomfort? Or do you find ways to change the adversity and turn it around into something positive? Journal your responses and you will soon start noticing patterns. Develop new habits. Recent research on the brain’s neuroplasticity has revealed that even as adults we can literally re-wire our brains by developing new habits. Just try it. Engage in one brief positive exercise at least once a week and increase frequency as it becomes more organic and easier. You may notice how it begins to affect your overall satisfaction. Even such small actions, research shows, can increase productivity and happiness.
Don’t complain. As a former Dale Carnegie facilitator, I remember the first principle on How to Win Friends and Influence People: Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain. This is a clear sign of a fixed mindset. How do we look at a situation from a growth mindset? What are the opportunities we can leverage? A complaining mindset will get us stuck; being flexible, however, will open doors to a million possibilities. Help a coworker, strike a conversation. People are hungry for social interaction; they want to feel seen and heard. A coaching client recently told me about his struggles at networking events. He felt too shy to approach people, too inadequate to strike a conversation or break into a group. When I asked him whether he thought other people might be feeling the same way, he thought about it and then said that yes, he knew of many others going through similar struggles.. So, I asked: What would it be like for you to approach these people not because you need something, but instead, because you sense they are uncomfortable and you can be the one who will help them by striking a conversation? It struck a chord with him, and I could sense a shift. A week later, he reported—enthusiastically!—how this helped him. How can you apply this yourself? What would happen if you shifted your attitude from personal concerns to one of giving and helping others? How would that affect the way you show up in life? Companies realize more and more the importance of supporting the right attitude in their employees. When we understand our attitude and mindset, we will be able to adapt well to a new team or at a new job. A growth mindset allows you to think creatively, positively, and openly. And this, in turn, will help change the often unpleasant circumstances we may find ourselves in.
I wouldn’t write this unless I walked my talk. I am used to speaking in front of big crowds, but writing even a small post like this puts me way out of my comfort zone. This was a tough one for me - I hope you enjoyed it!
Roberto Giannicola - Coaching & Facilitation – www.giannicola.com