Thursday, November 03, 2005

Almost Ready...

He who hesitates...waits...and waits...and waits.
Hesitation is a normal part of life. We all hesitate, each of us to differing degrees. Hesitation is the primary obstacle to learning new things, pursuing our desires, and influencing change.

In the book Change (Watzlawick, Weakland, Fisch) there is a story about a student who was struggling to complete a thesis. Watzlawick directed the student to go into three stores in the next week and make absurd requests. The student followed through and experienced a shift in his attitude. A short time later he finished his thesis.

Testing this theory seemed straight-forward, so I gave it shot. I went into a fast-food restaurant and waited in line. My heart rate sped up and so did my breathing. My body was responding to my mind telling me I was in danger, even though there was nothing to fear. When it was my turn I looked the lady right in the eye and asked for a slice of pepperoni pizza. She stared back and asked "What?". After I repeated myself she let me know they didn't sell that. I said thanks and walked out.

So this was a simple thing to do and more than a little silly. But the more I tried this, the easier it became. Which by itself isn't that interesting. But the change to my attitude was significant. The more I allow myself to do things that are unusual or out of the ordinary, the easier it is for me to step up and tackle the mundane things too.

If you want to try this, you will see that it works. If you do this, keep in mind that you should be very polite, non-threatening, and maybe come off a little confused. The typical response you get is amusement.

The reason this technique becomes significant is because it changes how we interpret responses. As humans we become conditioned to avoid mistakes. We are taught that mistakes are bad or dangerous. On the contrary, mistakes are an outrageously important tool for learning and growing. When you can get over your fear of the feedback from unusual behavior, you open the way for efficient learning and truly powerful communication. If you are going to be influencing others, you need a willingness to make mistakes. It's learning from the mistakes that makes it possible to find the right kind of influence you are looking for.

You will see a similar effect around how people handle money. I think I'll cover that one next.

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