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"Twisted Thinking"

by
Wendy Weiss

One of my new favorite books to recommend to coaching clients is "The Feeling Good Handbook" by David D. Burns, M.D. This is a book about depression. The subtitle reads: "Overcome depression, conquer anxiety, enjoy greater intimacy."

So why am I recommending a book about depression to my clients? This book is about a type of treatment called cognitive behavioral therapy. The word "cognition" means "thought" and this book is a common sense look at changing the way people think and thus changing their behavior.

In "The Feeling Good Handbook" Dr. Burns lists "The Ten Forms of Twisted Thinking" that occur when people are depressed. These ten forms also exist when people are not depressed and they exist within many, many sales professionals, entrepreneurs and business owners. If you use any of these twisted forms (and most of us do in one way or another) it will negatively impact your sales. I am listing all 10 so that you can judge for yourself. The following list of "Twisted Thinking" is paraphrased from "The Feeling Good Handbook" by David D. Burns, M.D.

1. All-or-nothing thinking

Everything is black or white. If a situation falls short of perfect, then it's a total failure. An example of all-or-nothing thinking is dieters who have one cookie and then proceed to eat the entire bag since they've already blown their diet. Another example would be sales people who because they do not have the time to make 100 calls in a day make no calls.

2. Overgeneralization

Seeing a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat. People who over generalize use words such as "always" or "never." "Cold calling never works for me." "Prospects always reject me."

3. Mental filter

Picking out a single negative detail and dwelling on it to the exclusion of everything else. An example: You receive many compliments from your associates about your presentation. If, 
however, you receive even one mildly critical comment you obsess about it and forget about all of the positive comments.

4. Discounting the positive

You reject positive experiences by insisting they "don't count." If you do a good job, you may tell yourself that it wasn't good enough or that anyone could have done as well.

5. Jumping to conclusions

You interpret things negatively when there are no facts to support your conclusion. There are two categories here: **Mind reading: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is 
reacting negatively to you with no evidence to back that up. You arbitrarily conclude that a prospect does not want to speak with you with no evidence to back that up.**Fortune telling: You predict that things will turn out badly. Before a prospecting call you tell yourself, "They're not interested." "I'm bothering them." "They'll probably say 'no.'"

6. Magnification

You exaggerate the importance of your (or your company or product or service) problems and shortcomings. You also minimize the importance of your (or your company or product or service) desirable qualities.

7. Emotional reasoning

You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are. "I am uncomfortable making cold calls" therefore "People do not like cold calls" therefore "Cold 
calling does not work."

8. "Should" statements

You tell yourself that things should be the way you hoped or wanted them to be. "I should have made that sale." "Musts," "ought's" and "have to's" are similar offenders. Should 
statements that are directed against yourself lead to guilt and frustration. Should statements that are directed against other people also lead to anger and frustration. "My prospect 
should call me back."

9. Labeling

Labeling is an extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking. You attach a negative label to yourself or to others. Example: You make a mistake and then say to yourself, "I'm a loser." 
Labeling is quite irrational because you are not the same as what you do. These labels lead to anger, anxiety, frustration, and low self-esteem.

You may also label others. When a prospect does not respond as you had hoped you may tell yourself, "He's a jerk." Then you feel that the problem is with that person's character instead of with their thinking or behavior. This makes you feel hostile and leaves little room for constructive communication.

10. Personalization and blame

You hold yourself personally responsible for an event that isn't entirely under your control. An appointment with a new prospect is cancelled because that prospect has left the 
company. You think, "If only I was better at prospecting, this wouldn't happen."

Some people do the opposite. They blame other people or their circumstances for their problems and they overlook ways that they might be contributing to the problem. Blame doesn't usually work very well.

© 2006 Wendy Weiss


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