In sports the home court advantage is the extra advantage the home team has because of the support of their fans in the arena. What about we individuals in our day-to-day lives? For some of us, or even many of us, we act more like our opponents than our fans. Ever notice the color commentator in your head, the one constantly commenting on what you’re doing right or wrong, good or bad? (No, not the kind that will get you committed by a psychiatrist!) The one that says: “What is she talking about?!” or “Don’t mess up!”, “You’ve got to do better.”, “That was stupid!”, “You’ll never get it.” And so on. Notice how this negative opponent’s chatter is much more prevalent in our heads than the chatter of adoring fans, such as: “Come on, you can do it!”, “Ok, so you missed that one, here comes a new shot.”, “Just stay focused on the present.”, “You’ve got it, that time was much better.”, “You’re going to get there. You’re on the right path!”
Like the concept but not sure about implementation? Consider that we have typically spent years developing our ability to see what is wrong, to see with a “critical eye”. Most of us have spent much less time developing our ability to see what is right. In a workshop I attended just a few years ago, we were asked to listen to a simulation and take notes on suggestions for what was being done well and what to do differently. I was shocked to see that I had plenty of suggestions for what to do different, but many less ideas for what to keep on doing - very chagrining to someone working as a clinical psychologist, organizational consultant, mediator, and professional coach for 20 years. And yet, in order for us to keep performing well or better, it is just as important to know what we are doing well, what we should keep on doing, as to know what we want to be doing something different. And, we are generally not used to seeing our world that way.
Cheryl Richardson is a dynamic and admired public speaker. She arrived at Toastmasters (a group for developing public speaking) some years ago as a shy and awkward guest of a group member. She remembers being encouraged to speak, finally agreeing, and then hearing one thing she was doing well each time she spoke. She stayed with the group. Similarly, this skill of seeing with a more “positive” eye is essential for a manager truly interested and successful in developing their people. These managers look for what their staff are doing right, they give positive feedback, they give encouragement. Yes, they also specifically note what actions their people need to do differently. And they specifically note what to continue doing to increase the chance of continued and growing success.
Now about doing that for ourselves. Developing our personal fan section is not about giving forced or inauthentic praise. Practice noticing the things you are doing well. For example, perhaps the area you are working on takes time, and you are progressing – maybe just not as fast as your commentator thinks you should. Should someone training for a marathon berate themselves for “only” being able to run five miles after the first few weeks? Our internal commentator best switches from opponent to fan in response to questions, such as “What are you doing well right now?” and “How far have you come?”
Choosing to focus on what is going well, versus choosing to focus on where we have messed up, is just that – choice. Which one would you prefer to choose? What questions will you put to your internal commentator, to strengthen your personal home court advantage?