Tag Archives: logic

How to Stop Yodelling in Meetings – Managing Your Personal Stress Levels

I’m not one of those people who vocalises my anxiety, more a “grit your teeth and get on with it” kind of chap. But whenever I feel nervous or anxious, I have a feeling which I often describe as an “internal yodelling”. It’s a kind of “ohmygodherewegobloodyhellgetmeoutofhere” internal dialogue. And it’s really rather unhelpful.Stressful_Meeting

Recently, on-going health problems led to me having an ultrasound scan of my abdomen. And it was a bizarre procedure. I was led into an ominously darkened room with a stern but polite nurse and a rather funky but esoteric doctor who appeared to be a little bit too proud of his byzantine and slightly terrifying medical equipment. I half expected Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky” to be permanently playing on a loop, but fortunately there was only the rhythmic beeping of the doctor’s toys.

After the inevitable brief conversation about why I was there, I was asked to remove my shirt and lie on top of a piece of apparatus they referred to as a bed but which looked more like a workbench. When the doctor began to lube up my belly, the inevitable internal yodelling started. I was so nervous about the potential outcome of this slightly undignified procedure that I even forgot to deploy my preplanned quip, “is it a boy or a girl?”.

Never mind, they’ve probably heard guys knock out that cracker plenty of times before.

Naturally, the source of my anxiety was both the potential outcome of the scan and the environment in which the process was taking place. I could not necessarily prevent my anxiety but what I did was use a technique I always use in situations like this.

I switched my mind from emotional mode into thinking mode.

Getting Control Of Your Emotions

Now, you may have been in many situations at work where you have felt similar emotions to those I felt on the day of my scan. You’ve probably experienced this most often in meetings. After all, meetings are one of the most intimidating and anxiety-inducing pieces of theatre we perform in organisations. Think about it, you are on show. Everybody is giving a performance. There are expectations, requirements, emotional investments. Everybody is fully loaded with all of these things.

When you walk into a meeting room there is an atmosphere. Hell, some meetings are not dissimilar to my aforementioned hospital room. Beeping equipment, stern but friendly people, an enormous flat surface in the middle of the room and sometimes even, an absence of light. Okay, nobody is being asked to remove their shirt – well, not in any organisation I’ve worked with… but you get the idea. They can be genuinely intimidating.

The thing is, like me and my ultrasound scan, you can’t necessarily avoid this atmosphere or prevent your anxiety from surfacing in the first place. What you can do, is shut off your anxiety so you can think.

Business Requires Thought, Not Feelings

Performing business requires our thinking minds more than it requires our emotional side. After all, the rules of the world and reality are not based around arbitrary emotions. They are based around facts.

And yet, so much of what goes on in organisations today is based on people’s feelings. Meetings are a virtual circus of individual’s emotions but their purpose is to collate collective thoughts in order to make progress on various issues. Ironically, feelings prevent this purpose from being achieved.

So if you can shut off your anxiety and allow yourself to think, you will be able to make a far greater impact on the progress of your organisation and have a much better and more rewarding experience while you’re at it.

Brain Capacity For Thought And Feeling

The problem you have is one we all share. The human brain has a very limited capacity to simultaneously process rational thoughts and emotions. It works like this-when you’re feeling emotional your capacity for rational thought reduces.

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Similarly when you’re engaged in rational thought, your capacity to feel emotions also reduces.

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If you are generally ruled by your feelings, this process works against you. However, if you are able to turn the tables and knock your mind into thinking mode then you can make this work very much in your favour.

When you are in a stressful situation such as a meeting, the environmental conditions are usually what puts your mind into feeling mode and prevents you from getting into thinking mode. You might remember my internal dialogue from earlier -“ohmygodherewegobloodyhellgetmeoutofhere”. Try saying this to yourself over and over again in a frenzied manner and see how rational and stable you feel at the end of it. In my case, my yodelling is default internal dialogue that helps to reinforce the messages that are being sent to me by the stressful environment I’m in. It’s likely that you will have a similar internal dialogue that surfaces whenever you feel anxious.

Now it turns out that you can switch your mind into thinking mode by changing your internal dialogue to a logical and thought based phrase. My yodelling example is clearly an emotional phrase, so my technique for changing modes to thinking is to use the phrase “hmm… this is interesting”.

Try saying this to yourself. You’ll notice that this phrase immediately makes your mind curious to gain further understanding of the situation you’re in. It is not connected to any emotion, it is a logical phrase.

When I was in the hospital, lying on the work bench, lubed up with what appeared to be a storm trooper’s head being scraped across my gut, I said this phrase to myself – “hmm… this is interesting”. The anxiety lifted, I began to see the humour in the situation and I became interested in understanding more about how the procedure worked and what all the equipment did.

This could work for you in meetings and other stressful situations.

What’s your logical phrase going to be? Pick something that works for you and next time you’re sitting in a meeting and internally yodelling from all the drama and theatre, use your logical phrase. Switch your mind into thinking mode and become interested in solving the problem or situation and watch how effective you become. Imagine how effective you will be and how much influence you will be able to assert if you are able to think where everyone else is yodelling.

And finally, in case you’re wondering, all was well with the scan but take my word for it, if the Doctor asks you if you’d like to see the images, just say no.

“ohmygodherewegobloodyhellgetmeoutofhere!!”

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John Hackett

Managing Director – Franklin-Hackett Ltd.

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“On What Basis?”: The Dirty Question You Must Never Use at Work – How To Cut The Crap In Meetings

Being something of a serial Apple purchaser (I know, I know), about six months ago I decided I would rather like a brand new Mac Pro. As I am a frustrated musician, I could see this being the perfect purchase for my home studio. “It’s the choice of professional studios”, I said to myself. “It has limitless expandability”, I reasoned. “And it’s really cool”, I fantasised.

I went as far as to look at prices, even attempting to work out how I could fund one of Imagethese almighty beasts. Various web pages describing the Mac Pro were salivated at and numerous YouTube videos were watched with a sense of wonder and glee. This process continued in earnest until one day I happened to mention to my wife that I was considering buying one. Her question cut straight through several weeks of mental machinations – “On what basis do you want one of those? You already have a top of the range iMac”.

Perspective was suddenly achieved. I had everything I needed for my home studio setup in my existing kit. Why was I even considering replacing it with something way more powerful than I needed?

Alarmingly, I had never once asked myself that simple question – “On what basis?”.

In the business environment, we so often sit through meetings exploring various plans and ideas in great detail. What is absolutely staggering is that very rarely does anyone ask “On what basis are we doing this?”. If someone does dare to try out the question, they are often greeted with the same kind of response you get when you secretly build a brick wall across your neighbour’s front door during the night and they work out who did it the following morning. It’s not a popular question to ask in the middle of an intense meeting.

Why is this? Why do we so dislike being confronted with such a useful question in a business situation? Why don’t we use it more?

A key reason is that old human trait – attachment. It is common to all of us – when we have an idea of what we want to see happen, we often attach ourselves to a specific outcome. We emotionally invest in that outcome, it becomes meaningful to us and once that happens, attachment rules our behaviour.

You can test this. Find the guy in the office who is really excited about his potential purchase of a new BMW 3-Series and tell him there are better options in the market. You may get a similar look to what you experience when you pick up someone’s cup of coffee and pour it out of the window. He won’t thank you for it.

He is of course attached to the specific outcome he’s decided he wants – that particular model of car.

In the business environment, people often put forward ideas to which they have become attached. After all, it’s their idea, right? This is the result of an emotional decision-making process rather than a logical one. For more information on the background of how people use emotion in making decisions, take a look at my other blog post – “Why Batman is Relevant to Your Business”

So people in business decide on a particular outcome they want, they pick the means by which it will be achieved and they become attached to it. As a result they don’t question their own logic.

So what happens if you ask the question “On what basis?”. Well, it turns out that this question is one of those lovely phrases that is inherently logical. There is absolutely nothing emotional about it. If you introduce a logical phrase to the brain it resets your mind into a thinking state rather than a feeling state. Now, you may get an initial emotional reaction from someone who’s attached if you put this question to them, but once you get them engaged in processing the question they will quickly switch into logical thinking mode. This is where you want them, because at this point they are separated from their emotional attachment and engaged in solving the problem logically.

By doing this during meetings at work, you can quickly make a big impact on the quality of decision-making and corporate planning.

If you are in any doubt about the impact of a simple phrase, consider this. Would history have been different if someone at Decca Records in 1961 had asked “on what basis do you think guitar groups are on the way out?” after the decision to reject The Beatles? Could a lot of unnecessary cost and bad publicity have been avoided if back in 1985, someone at Coca-Cola had asked “on what basis do you think we need to change the flavour of our most popular drink?”. Would IBM’s fortunes be better today if back in the late 1980’s, someone had asked “on what basis do we think it’s a good idea to give all the rights to our PC operating software to Microsoft?”.

So why not try this out – ask yourself this question when you are planning to do something and also ask your colleagues. It may be a little tricky at first, but I am confident that the benefits will outweigh any short term discomfort.

And by the way, I still have my iMac.

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John Hackett

Managing Director – Franklin-Hackett Ltd.