Brad pulled into the service bay and said, “The noise is back!” Our faces dropped as we all knew that this third service was going to be mostly a waste of time. Brad was known to be a complainer. He could find a cloud on any sunny day. Last time he was in, there was, “An annoying sound every time it shifts gears.” Upon checking, we determined that the transmission was operating almost perfectly, and Brad was just unfamiliar with the normal sounds of operation. He heard the sounds because he was looking for something wrong.
When you’re looking for a problem, you’ll notice things you hadn’t been aware of before. But then, noticing more is the essence of intelligent thinking. Still, what’s the point? Are you looking for a problem when there haven’t been any symptoms or trying to isolate a problem that in fact, doesn’t exist? Or are you simply observing the normal operation of the device? In observing normal operations, if you suspect or expect that there’s a problem, even normal sounds will concern you.
Mindset matters. For example, say you’re asked, “What are your main personnel problems?” You’ll think about the people you work with and look for the dysfunction in each of them. But let’s change the trajectory of the question. Answer this one; “Where do you feel the greatest improvements can be made by your team members?” The first question focuses your attention on the problems, and the second one opens your thinking to areas of improvement. Whether positive or negative, what you look for, you will usually find. “Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you will find.”
The point of it all is seeing the truth but through a positive filter. On a rainy day, some say, “Another lousy day! There’s goes our picnic tomorrow. I think the weather here has changed for the worse.” Others, seeing the same rainy day, say, “The soil needs this rain. I sure hope tomorrow is sunny for our picnic. We may need a backup location.” One person gets depressed and irritable and the other looks for ways to make things better.
You might think, “That’s just more of that ‘positive thinking’ BS! We can’t control the weather.” You’re right on both points; it is positive thinking, and you cannot control the weather. But you can certainly control what you think and do about the weather. Learn to manage your outlook. One of my colleagues used to joke that some people act like they’d been weaned on a pickle. They always have a sour look and outlook. But that’s correctable. The way we think truly does matter – to others and to ourselves.
Thoughts are things. Thoughts are not just personal secrets that take place inside our heads. Thoughts have bigger implications. You can control many of your thoughts. In fact, I believe you should. If you start dreading a meeting with someone, then you’ll begin to have a negative experience long before they arrive. Instead, what if you ask, “How could I make this encounter go better?” Now you’ll, at least, avoid the angst that precedes the meeting. What changed in this instance was your thoughts, and thoughts changed your emotional experience.
Remember when your kids were little and they “hated” a particular food that they had never even tasted? That negative experience was all in their mindset – their point of view. I remember not liking a guy who worked near my office, long ago. I didn’t know him, but I had convinced myself that I didn’t like him. Then I read a quote from Abraham Lincoln in which he said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” Wow! What a healthy point of view! So, I took Abe’s advice and introduced myself. As it turned out, he was a pretty likable guy! Who knew? The only thing that really changed was my mindset.
What’s my point? The next time a “Brad” drives into your shop, take a couple of minutes to see what’s really bugging him. It may not be the transmission, at all. He might feel that you guys hadn’t truly attempted to understand his concerns last time, and therefore, in his mind, you probably didn’t do your best job on his car. A little empathy and more explanation from you might just make his fears go away. When a situation comes up and you’re feeling a bit of anxiety about it, ask yourself, “What’s behind it?” Also ask, “What’s their point…of view?”
Jim Cathcart is a long-time friend of ATRA and contributor to GEARS. He’s written 19 books and travels the world delivering seminars to “Help People Succeed.” He’s a member of the Sales & Marketing Hall of Fame and, adjunct professor at California Lutheran University’s School of Management. He’s also a car and motorcycle enthusiast. Reach him at Cathcart.com or 1-805-777- 3477.