Tag Archives: self-management

Self-Distancing Pronouns Use Can Increase Self-Management

Ethan Kross

Ethan Kross

Despite years of popular guidance to use self-statements for difficult conversations with partners, spouses, and bosses, research argues for using self-distancing alternatives to manage stress and increase self-control.

Emma Bruehlman-Senecal

Emma Bruehlman-Senecal

University of Michigan’s Ethan Kross, Jiyoung Park, Aleah Burson, Adrienne Dougherty, Holly Shablack, and Ryan Bremner with Emma Bruehlman-Senecal and Ozlem Ayduk of University of California, Berkeley, plus Michigan State’s Jason Moser studied more than 580 people’s ability to self-regulate reactions to social stress by using different ways of referring to the self during introspection.

LeBron James

LeBron James

One example of variations in self-reference is LeBron James’ statement, One thing I didn’t want to do was make an emotional decision. I wanted to do what’s best for LeBron James and to do what makes LeBron James happy.”

The team demonstrated that using non-first-person pronouns (such as “he” or “she”)  and one’s own name (rather than “I”) during introspection enhanced self-distancing, or focusing on the self from a distant perspective.

Stephen Hayes

Stephen Hayes

Distancing, also called “decentering” or “self as context,” allows people to observe and accept their feelings, according to University of Nevada’s Steven Hayes, Jason Luoma, Akihiko Masuda and Jason Lillis collaborating with Frank Bond of University of London.

Ozlem Ayduk

Ozlem Ayduk

Self-distancing verbalizations were associated with less distress and less maladaptive “post-event processing  (reviewing performance) when delivering a speech without sufficient time to prepare, and when seeking to make a good first impression on others.
Post-event processing can lead to increased social anxiety, noted Temple University’s Faith Brozovich and Richard Heimberg.

Faith Brozovich

Faith Brozovich

They found that participantsexperienced less global negative affect and shame after delivering a speech without sufficient preparation time, and engaged in less post-event processing.

Adrienne Dougherty

People who talked about themselves with non-first person pronouns also performed better in speaking and impression-formation social tasks, according to ratings by observers.

Participants who used self-distancing language appraised future stressors as less threatening, and they more effectively reconstrued experiences for greater coping, insight, and closure, in another study by Kross and Ayduk.

Ryan Bremner

Ryan Bremner

People with elevated scores on measures of depression or bipolar disorder experienced less distress when applying a self-distanced visual perspective as they contemplated emotional experiences, noted Kross and Ayduk, collaborating with San Francisco State University’s David Gard, Patricia Deldin of University of Michigan, and Jessica Clifton of University of Vermont.

David Gard

Using second-person pronouns (“you”) seems to be a self-distancing strategy when people reflect on situations that involve self-control, noted University of North Carolina’s Ethan Zell, Amy Beth Warriner of McMaster University and University of Illinois’s Dolores Albarracín.

Ethan Zell

These findings demonstrate that small changes in self-referencing words during introspection significantly increase self-regulation of thoughts, feelings, and behavior during social stress experiences.

Self-distancing references may help people manage depression and anger about past and anticipated social anxiety.

Dolores Albarracín

-*What impact do you experience when you use “self-distancing language”?

-*How do you react when you hear others using “self-distancing language,” like referring to “you” when speaking about their own experience?

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Developing “Big 8” Job Competencies

George Hallenbeck

George Hallenbeck

Better job performance is associated with with eight capabilities known as “The Big 8”, according to Korn-Ferry International’s George Hallenbeck, in his analysis of Leadership Architect® library of competencies:

• Dealing with Ambiguity,
• Creativity,
• Innovation Management,
• Strategic Agility,
• Planning,
• Motivating Others,
• Building Effective Teams,
• Managing Vision & Purpose.

He analyzed more than 1500 ratings on this 360 degree assessment, and found that just 12% of executives possessed four or more of “The Big 8.”
None of these organizational leaders demonstrated more than six of these competencies, though they consistently showed more than individual contributors.
This suggests that although executives demonstrate more of critical leadership capabilities than non-leaders, the vast majority have significant room for professional development.

Daniel GolemanExecutives and individual contributors who had more of “The Big 8” competencies also had more of “Career Staller and Stopper” behaviors.
Bold individuals who demonstrate persistance may effectively execute, but may run afoul of key stakeholders and influencers.

Self-Awareness and Self-Management, identified in Daniel Goleman’s framework for Emotional Intelligence, may be a key to balancing between the Big 8’s performance enhancing impacts while mitigating their potential drawbacks in stalling careers.

-*What have you found the most important job competences among organizational leaders and those preparing for future leadership roles?

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Change Future Time Perspective to Reduce Procrastination

Neil Lewis

Neil Lewis

Future events seemed more “proximal” or occurring sooner when volunteers considered in days rather than months or years.

This shift in perspective made the Future Self and the future event seem more tangible and connected to the Present Self, enabling participants to begin progress toward distant goals, according to University of Michigan’s Neil Lewis and Daphna Oyserman of the University of Southern California.

Daphna Oyserman

Daphna Oyserman

Many people know the dilemma between purchasing expensive clothes now instead of putting the money into retirement savings or between enjoying dessert now when “swimsuit season” is just weeks away.
This pull between current rewards and costs vs future events and required efforts was labeled temporal discounting by Stanford’s Kacey Ballard and Brian Knutson.

Kacey Ballard

Kacey Ballard

People may not act when considering future events like retirement because they focus more on whether to take action in the present.
In contrast, people tend to concentrate how to act when faced with imminent situations requiring attention, according to temporal construal theory, described by NYU’s Yaacov Trope and Nira Liberman.

Yaacov Trope

Yaacov Trope

Further, people may not act when an anticipated Future Self seems incongruous or disconnected with the Present Self, found Williams College’s Kris Kirby with Nancy Petry of University of Vermont and Virginia Tech’s Warren Bickel.

Nancy Petry

Nancy Petry

When volunteers have begun preparing for the future, such as a work presentation, saving for a home, retirement, or children’s education, they saw metrics implying when a future event will occur.

More than 160 volunteers considered six scenarios — three with time metrics and three without.
For the time-metric situations, participants imagined that they were shopping, studying, or carrying out other tasks in preparation for future events — a birthday party, presentation, wedding, exam — and were asked to report how long it would be until those events occurred.

Warren Bickel

Warren Bickel

When participants considered time in the smaller of two possible units, the event seemed closer – an average of 29.7 days sooner when considered in days instead of months and an average of 8.7 months sooner when considered in months instead of years.

In other Lewis and Oyserman studies, more than 1100 participants in the U.S. indicated when they should start saving for a future scenario such as a child’s college education, measured either as 18 years or 6,570 days.

Nira Liberman

Nira Liberman

People who realized that this event would arrive within days planned to start saving four times sooner than those who thought that educational expenditures were years away, even when controlling for income, age, and self-control.

In contrast, when participants hadn’t begun preparing for an expected future event, they considered metrics as implying when they should start preparing.

This difference in time perspective can affect whether people achieve future goals that require consistent, long-term investments of time, effort, and money.
In fact, Oyserman argues that changing time perspective is  “… a new way to think about reaching goals that does not require willpower and is not about having character or caring.

Brian Knutson

Brian Knutson

Since the majority of people do not save save sufficient financial resources for required future expenditures, changing time metrics to more granular measures can make both future goals and one’s Future Self more aligned with the Present Self.

-*How do you align Future Self with Present Self when working toward future goals?

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Neuronal Recordings Suggest “Free Will” Might be “Free Won’t”

Itzhak Fried

Itzhak Fried

People may think they consciously control their actions and performance, but findings from UCLA’s Itzhak Fried and Roy Mukamel with Gabriel Kreiman of Harvard challenged conventional assumptions about “conscious intention” and “free will. ”

Roy Mukamel

Roy Mukamel

Fried, Mukamel, and Kreiman adopted Benjamin Libet’s procedure to assess “free will” at University of California, San Francisco, using intracranial recordings to identify neuron activity that precedes and predicts volunteers’ decision to move a finger.

Gabriel Kreiman

Gabriel Kreiman

Volunteers, who had electrodes implanted in their brains to record early indicators of seizures, pressed a button when they chose and indicated the clock’s hand position when they decided to press the button.

Libet’s process marks the time a voluntary action occurred, and the volunteer’s report of when the decision to act was completed.
These data points enabled researchers to identify specific neurons that were active during the time around the conscious decision to act and the completed action.

Benjamin Libet

Benjamin Libet

About a quarter of neurons in the frontal lobe’s supplementary motor area (responsible for motor activity coordination) and the anterior cingulate cortex (which directs attention and motivation) changed activity before volunteers said they wanted to press the button.

Spontaneous, voluntary acts were initiated in the cerebrum about 200 milliseconds before the person was consciously aware of the ‘decision’ to act, and researchers predicted with greater than 80 percent accuracy whether a movement had occurred and when the decision to make it happened.

Libet’s team suggested that unconscious brain processes, which are more rapid than conscious decision-making (“free will”), are the instigators of volitional acts.
However, these researchers also proposed that “free will” is more accurately described as “free won’t” because conscious volition can exercise “veto power” over intentions to act.

Kreiman extended this research to better understand loss of voluntary movement in Parkinson’s disease when he pre-empted volunteers’ movements after observing brain activation in the supplementary motor area and the anterior cingulate cortex.
StopHe activated a “stop” sign on a screen in front of each volunteer before the person actually moved, and reported that his volunteers frequently said, ”That was weird. It was like you read my mind.”

Nalini Ambady

Nalini Ambady

These brain studies complement Stanford professor Nalini Ambady’s work at Harvard University on “thin slicing”, or the experience of “knowing before you know.”
Also described as “intuition” or “unconscious cognitive processing,” these findings suggest that the conscious mind is the last to know when we make a decision.

-*How do you manage the discrepancy between unconscious mental processes and conscious awareness of them?

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Health Benefits of Positive Emotions, Outlook

Barbara Fredrickson

Barbara Fredrickson

Barbara Frederickson of University of North Carolina posits that negative emotions aid human survival by narrowing and limiting people’s perceived range of possible actions, whereas positive emotions enhance survival by “broadening and building” options for action.

She detailed her lab-based research in Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the 3 to 1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life and her talk at UC Berkeley Greater Good Science CenterPositivity

Her lab’s findings suggest that positive thinking expands awareness and perception of the surrounding world, so can lead to innovative solutions to problems.

She suggests intentionally implementing a “broaden-and-build” approach to emulate this expanded view: Choose a degree of focus and perspective depending on requirements.

For example, to garner more clout in a discussion, she suggests involving more people who will provide support.
Similarly, to mitigate negative thinking or “tunnel vision,” think more broadly by viewing “the big picture.”

Rosabeth Moss Kanter of Harvard Business School referred this perceptual shift as “zooming in” and “zooming out”, depending on the perspective requires.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Frederickson found that people who experience positive thinking are:

* Healthier
* More generous
* More productive
* Bounce back from adversity more quickly
* Are better managers of people
* Live longer
than those with a bleaker outlook.

Fredrickson’s research implies that positive emotions can mitigate the cardiovascular effects of negative emotions and stress.

In these activated conditions, people generally have increased heart rate, higher blood sugar, greater immunosuppression.
These conditions tax physical systems and can lead to life-threatening illnesses like coronary disease.

To mitigate these negative health consequences, Fredrickson recommends observing positive emotional experiences of joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love.
Besides noticing these experiences, she advocates writing and meditating about these to increase grateful awareness.

In addition, Frederickson echoes common wisdom:

  • Spend time in nature to appreciate the natural world
  • Develop interests
  • Invest time in relationships
  • Reduce exposure to negative news
  • Practice kindness
  • Dispute negative thoughts and replace them with more positive, realistic thoughts.

Frederickson extends her research agenda on positive emotions in her latest book, Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become. Love 2-0

She broadens the concept of love to suggest that love – or an intense connection – occurs when people share positive emotion.
This lead to alignment between people’s biochemistries,  particularly the release of oxytocin and vagal nerve functioning.
Related emotions and behaviors synchronize and mirror each other, resulting in shared interest in mutual well-being  in a three-phase  “positivity resonance.”

She argues that love “literally changes your mind.
It expands your awareness of your surroundings, even your sense of self.
The boundaries between you and not-you – what lies beyond your skin – relax and become more permeable.
While infused with love, you see fewer distinctions between you and others.”

Fredrickson argues that this intense connection requires physical presence, and cannot be replaced by existing digital media — reinforcing her recommendation to invest in relationships with others.

-*What practices enable you to cultivate and sustain positive emotions?

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