When Bob the builder says 'Can we fix it?' it's actually good for his brain.


A lot of people use affirmations to overcome their negative thinking. You know the sort. "I am beautiful. I am successful, handsome and happy. I have already succeeded in my life."

Personally, I've never been an affirmation type of gal.  

For one thing, it seems fake. If I'm 10 kilos overweight, it's kind of a lie to tell myself "I am as thin as I want to be." Because no. No, I'm not.  Obviously it's better than telling myself, "I'm hopeless, I'm fat and I'll never lose it." But I still feel uncomfortable.

I like to tell the truth as it is right now . And if I'm not happy or successful or whatever today then I'm not going to say that I am.

So it was really interesting to read Daniel H Pink's take on this in his book To Sell is Human  recently. (His argument is that we're all salespeople, just by virtue of being human and having something to share with others, whether it's door to door encyclopedias, education or a solution to a problem.) 

In it, he talks about the concept of 'buoyancy' or what we might otherwise know as resilience. How do we stay strong when there are knockbacks and disappointments and fails in sales? 

Apparently Bob the Builder has the right idea. And for those who have not been viewers of TV channels for young children in the last 15 years, the catchphrase for Bob the builder and his team of happy little machines is this: "Can we Fix it?" Followed by a very cheery "Yes! We Can!" with a tiny little "Oh, I think so" tacked on the end by the pessimistic and anxious crane character.

Pink says: "Social scientists are discovering that bob has it right. Yes, positive self-talk is more effective than negative self-talk. But the most effective self-talk of all doesn't just shift emotions... it moves from making statements to asking questions." 

In some experiments participants who approached a task with bob the builder style of questions outperformed those who came at it with positive affirmations. 

Pink argues that affirmations and the like bypass your motivations for success whereas questions bring them into play. And people do better when they hold their intrinsic motivations close to their hearts. 

So next time you're facing a hurdle, ask yourself, "Can I get over it?" and see what happens. 

(You might be interested in a previous post I wrote about the Quiet Leadership book by Daniel Rock where he talks about helping other people through questions too.) 


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