Change Implementation Techniques for Laying a Foundation for New Ways

Technique 1.18 Optimism vs Pessimism

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Introduction

. Understanding the degree of optimism and/or pessimism within individuals, groups, the organisation, etc can assist handling the change process as effectively as possible. Remember that optimism results in better resilience and performance than pessimism.

Furthermore,

"...personality traits that lead......to interpret information in a certain way, information that others might treat differently. They tend to say that the way they see things is the way things truly are. But, of course, this belief is found in both optimists and pessimists ‐ both groups believe the other to be looking at life in the 'wrong', rather than just a 'different' way. All this is hardly surprising......the way our brain receives incoming information informs and modifies its very architecture..."

Robert Winston, 2003

. There is some evidence that the different hemispheres of the brain are involved in determining whether a person is a pessimist or an optimist, ie

"...people with a pessimistic view......show increased right‐brain activity and, conversely, decreased left‐brain activity.....this fundamental 'left brain optimist vs right brain pessimist' distinction would appear to be established not long after birth..."

Robert Winston, 2003

. Looking at professions, in general, most sales staff are optimists, while most lawyers are pessimists!!!!!

. A simple categorizing test: how do you describe the water level in a glass, ie is the glass half filled or half empty? The pessimist sees the glass as half empty while the optimist sees the glass as half full!!!!!!!

. There are 3 dimensionsto understanding optimism and pessimism:

i) permanence (your attitude to bad and good events)

ii) persuasiveness (how you handle problems/failures, ie how long before you give‐up)

iii) hope (is linked with permanence and persuasiveness, and involves whether you perceive events as hopeful or hopeless)

Questionnaire

. Read the scenarios outlined below and vividly imagine that you are involved. Even if you have not experienced some of the situations, respond in the way you are most likely to react.

Furthermore,

"...you may not like the way some of responses sound, but don't choose what you think you should say or what would sound right to other people; choose the response you know that you are likely to have..."

Martin Seligman, 2002

. Circle only one response to each of the following questions

Questions

1. You and your spouse (boyfriend/girlfriend) make up after a fight

a) Forgive him/her 0

b) I'm usually forgiving 1

2. You forget your spouse's (boyfriend's/ girlfriend's) birthday

a) I'm not good at remembering birthdays 1

b) I was preoccupied with other things 0

3. You get a flower from a secret admirer

a) I am attractive to him/her 0

b) I am a popular person 1

4. You run for a community office position and you win

a) I devoted a lot of time and energy to campaigning 0

b) I work very hard at everything I do 1

5. You miss an important engagement.

a) Sometimes my memory fails me 1

b) I sometimes forget to check my appointment book 0

6. You host a successful dinner.

a) I was particularly charming that night 0

b) I am a good host 1

7. You owe the library ten dollars for an overdue book.

a) When I am really involved in what I am reading, I often forget when it's due 1

b) I was so involved in writing the report that I forgot to return the book 0

8. Your stocks make you a lot of money.

a) My broker decided to take a chance on something new 0

b) My broker is a top notch investor 1

9. You win an athletic contest

a) I was feeling unbeatable 0

b) I train hard 1

10. You fail an important examination

a) I wasn't as smart as the other people taking the exam 1

b) I didn't prepare for it well 0

11 You prepare a special meal for a friend, and he/she barely touched the food

a) I'm not a good cook 1

b) I made the meal in a rush 0

12. You lose a sporting event for which you have been training for a long time.

a) I'm not very athletic 1

b) I'm not good at that sport 0

13. You lose your temper with a friend

a) He/she is always nagging me 1

a) He/she was in a hostile mood 0

14. You are penalized for not returning your income tax forms on time

a) I always put off doing my taxes 1

b) I was lazy about getting my taxes done this year 0

15. You ask a person out on a date, and he/she says no.

a) I was a wreck that day 1

b) I got tongue‐tied when I asked him/her on the date 0

16. You are frequently asked to dance at a party

a) I am outgoing at parties 1

b) I was in perfect form last night 0

17. You do exceptionally well in a job interview

a) I felt extremely confident during the interview 0

b) I interview well 1

18. Your boss gives you too little time to finish a project, but you get it finished anyway

a) I am good at my job 0

b) I am an efficient person 1

19. You've been feeling run down lately

a) I never get a chance to relax 1

b) I was exceptionally busy this week 0

20. You save a person from choking to death

a) I know a technique to stop someone from choking 0

b) I know what to do in a crisis 1

21. Your romantic partner wants to cool things off for a while

a) I'm too self‐centered 1

b) I don't spend enough time with him/her 0

22. A friend says something that hurts your feelings

a) He/she always blurts things out without thinking of others 1

b) My friend was in a bad mood and took it out on me 0

22. Your employer comes to you for advice.

a) I am an expert in the area about which I was asked 0

b) I am good at giving useful advice 1

24. A friend thanks you for helping him/her get through a bad time.

a) I enjoy helping him/her through tough times 0

b) I care about people 1

25. Your doctor tells you that you are in good physical shape

a) I make sure I exercise frequently 0

b) I am very health conscious 1

26. Your spouse (boyfriend/girlfriend) take you away on a romantic weekend

a) He/she needed to get away for a few days 0

b) He/she likes to explore new areas 1

27. You are asked to head an important project

a) I just successfully completed a similar project 0

b) I am a good supervisor 1

28. You fall down a great deal while skiing

a) Skiing is difficult 1

b) The trails were icy 0

29. You win a prestigious award

a) I solved an important problem 0

b) I was the best employee 1

30. Your stocks are at an all time low

a) I don't know much about the business climate at the time 1

b) I made a poor choice of stocks 0

31. You gain weight over the holidays, and you can't lose it.

a) Diets don't work in the long run 1

b) The diet I tried didn't work 0

32. They won't honour your credit card at a store

a) I sometimes overestimate how much money I have 1

b) Sometimes I forget to pay my credit card bill 0

Analysis of answers

Based on the numerical value of your answers, fill in the score (0 or 1) in the table below for permanence and pervasiveness

 

Permanence

Pervasiveness

Q

Permanent

(pessimistic)

Q

Temporary

(optimistic)

Q

Pervasiveness

(pessimistic)

Q

Pervasiveness

(optimistic

2

 

1

 

5

 

3

 

7

 

6

 

10

 

4

 

13

 

8

 

11

 

18

 

14

 

9

 

12

 

20

 

19

 

16

 

15

 

23

 

22

 

17

 

21

 

24

 

28

 

26

 

30

 

25

 

31

 

27

 

32

 

29

 

Total

*i

 

*ii

 

*iii

 

*iv

Notes

i)Total: if your total is 0 or 1, you are very optimistic; 2 or 3, moderately optimistic; 4, average; 5 or 6, quite pessimistic; and if you got a 7 or 8, you are very pessimistic

ii) Total: if your total is 7 or 8, you are very optimistic about the likelihood of good events continuing; 6, moderately optimistic; 4 or 5, average; 3, moderately pessimistic; and 0,1, or 2, very pessimistic

iii) Total: if your total is 0 or 1, you are very optimistic; 2 or 3, moderately optimistic; 4, average; 5 or 6, moderately pessimistic; 7 or 8, very pessimistic

iv) Total: if your total is 7 or 8, you are very optimistic; 6, moderately optimistic; 4 or 5, average; 3, moderately pessimistic; 0, 1, or 2, very pessimistic

Notes

c) If your score is from 10 to 16, you are extraordinarily hopeful; from 6 to 9, moderately hopeful; from 1 to 5, average; from minus 5 to 0, moderately hopeless; below minus 5, severely hopeless

Hope

Hopeless

Hopeful

Add totals (i and iii) *a

Add totals (ii and iv) *b

Subtract "b" from "a" *c

 

An example

 

Permanence

Pervasiveness

Q

Permanent

(pessimistic)

Q

Temporary

(optimistic)

Q

Pervasiveness

(pessimistic)

Q

Pervasiveness

(optimism)

2

0

1

0

5

0

3

0

7

0

6

0

10

0

4

1

13

1

8

 

11

1

18

0

14

1

9

1

12

1

20

1

19

1

16

1

15

0

23

1

22

1

17

1

21

0

24

0

28

1

26

0

30

0

25

1

31

1

27

0

32

0

29

1

Total

6*i

 

4*ii

 

2*iii

 

5*iv

Notes

i)Total: if your total is 0 or 1, you are very optimistic on this dimension; 2 or 3, moderately optimistic; 4, average; 5 or 6, quite pessimistic; and if you got a 7 or 8, you are very pessimistic

ii) Total: if your total is 7 or 8, you are very optimistic about the likelihood of good events continuing; 6, moderately optimistic; 4 or 5, average; 3, moderately pessimistic; and 0,1, or 2, very pessimistic

iii) Total: if your total is 0 or 1, you are very optimistic on this dimension; 2 or 3, moderately optimistic; 4, average; 5 or 6, moderately pessimistic; 7 or 8, very pessimistic

iv) Total: if your total is 7 or 8, you are very optimistic on this dimension; 6, moderately optimistic; 4 or 5, average; 3, moderately pessimistic; 0, 1, or 2, very pessimistic

Hope

Hopeless

Hopeful

Add totals (i and iii) 8*a

Add totals (ii and iv) 9*b

Subtract "b" from "a" 1*c

 

Notes

a ) see above

b) see above

c) If your score is from 10 to 16, you are extraordinarily hopeful; from 6 to 9, moderately hopeful; from 1 to 5, average; from minus 5 to 0, moderately hopeless; below minus 5, severely hopeless

This example would be regarded as illustrating a pragmatic pessimist, ie

"...prepared to take a dim view of things, unless surprised by the way they turn out..."

Robert Winston, 2003

The aim is to increase the level of optimism/hopefulness and to decrease the pessimism/hopelessness

Some comments on permanence, persuasiveness and hope

. Permanence (it is about time and the way you perceive events ‐ good and bad)

the way you perceive bad events that provide important insights

"...people who give up easily believe that the causes of the bad events that happen to them are permanent ‐ bad events will persist, are always going to be there to affect their lives. People who resist helplessness believe the causes of bad events are temporary..."

Martin Seligman, 2002

i) some statements that demonstrate the differences between optimists and pessimists are

"...PERMANENT (PESSIMISTS) TEMPORARY (OPTIMISTIC)

"I'm all washed up" "I'm exhausted"

"Diets never work" "Diets don't work when you eat out"

"You always nag" "You nag when I don't clean my room"

"The boss is a bastard" "The boss is in a bad mood"

"You never talk to me " "You haven't talked to me lately..."

Martin Seligman, 2002

ii) Furthermore, if you think in terms of "always" and "never", you have a permanent, pessimistic style, while if you think in terms of "sometimes" and "lately", using qualifiers and blaming bad events on ephemera, you have an optimistic style

"...when we fail, we all become at least momentarily helpless. It's like a punch in the stomach. It hurts, but the hurt goes away for some people almost instantly (the optimist)......for others, the hurt lasts; it congeals into a grudge......they remain helpless for days, or perhaps months, even after only small setbacks. After major defeats, they may never come back..."

Martin Seligman, 2002

‐ the way you perceive good events is significant

"...people who believe good events have permanent causes are more optimistic than those who believe they have temporary causes..."

Martin Seligman, 2002

iv) some statements that demonstrate the differences between optimists and pessimists are

"...TEMPORARY (PESSIMISM) PERMANENT (OPTIMISM)

"My lucky day" "I'm always lucky"

"I try hard" "I'm talented"

"My rival got tired" "My rival is no good"..."

Martin Seligman, 2002

ii) optimistic people explain good events to themselves in terms of permanent causes, such as strengths and abilities, while pessimists name transient causes, such as mood and effort

"...as for people who believe in good events and permanent causes, when they succeed they try even harder the next time. People who see temporary reasons for good events may give up even when they succeed, believing it was a fluke. People who take best advantage of success, and get on a roll once things start to go well, are the optimists..."

Martin Seligman, 2002

. Pervasiveness (specific vs universal) (pervasiveness is about space and how long you give‐up for)

reactions to bad events

"...some people can put their troubles neatly into a box and go about their lives even when one important aspect of it ‐ the job, for example, or their love life ‐ is crumbling. Others let one problem bleed all over everything. They catastrophise. When one thread of their lives breaks, a whole fabric unravels..."

Martin Seligman, 2002

People who make universal explanations for their failures give up on everything when a failures strikes in one area. People who make specific explanations may become helpless in that one part of their lives, and march stalwartly on in the others. Here are some universal and specific explanations of bad events:

UNIVERSAL (PESSIMISM) SPECIFIC (OPTIMISM)

"All teachers are unfair" "Professor Seligman is unfair"

"I'm repulsive" "I'm repulsive to him"

"Books are useless" "This book is useless......

The permanence dimension determines how long a person gives up for ‐ with permanent explanations of bad events producing long lasting helplessness, and temporary explanations producing resilience. The persuasiveness dimension determines whether helplessness cuts across many situations or is limited to the original arena..."

Martin Seligman, 2002

‐ reaction to good events

"...the optimist believes good events will enhance everything he does, while the pessimist believes good events are caused by specific factors..."

Martin Seligman, 2002

i) some statements to demonstrate the difference between the approach of the pessimist and optimist

"...SPECIFIC (PESSIMISM) UNIVERSAL (OPTIMISM)

"I'm smarter at math" "I'm smart"

"my broker knows oil stocks" "My broker knows Wall Street"

"I was charming to her" "I am charming"..."

Martin Seligman, 2002

. Hope

whether or not you have hope depends upon the 2 dimensions, ie permanence and persuasiveness

"...Finding permanent and universal causes of good events along with temporary and specific causes of misfortune is the art of hope; finding permanent and universal causes of misfortune and temporary and specific causes of good events is the practice of despair. Bad events can be described in either a hopeless or hopeful manner as in these examples:

HOPELESS HOPEFUL

"I'm stupid" "I'm hung over"

"Men are tyrants" "My husband was in a bad mood"

"It's 5 to 10 this lump is cancer "It's 5 to 10 this lump is nothing"

The same goes for good events

HOPELESS HOPEFUL

"I'm lucky" "I'm talented"

"My wife charms my clients" "My wife charms everybody"

"The US will root out the terrorists" ` "The US will root out all its enemies"......

People who make permanent and universal explanations for good events, as well as temporary and specific explanation for bad events, bounce back from trouble briskly and get on a roll easily when they succeed once. People who make temporary and specific explanations for setbacks, tend to collapse under pressure ‐ both for a long time and across situations ‐ they rarely get on a roll..."

Martin Seligman, 2002

(sources: Martin Seligman, 2002; Robert Winston, 2003)

 

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