(or change) your strategy
Defensive pessimists are anxious
by nature, and the very idea of performing a task activates that tendency. Their
goal is to manage their anxiety, recognizing what might go wrong and what events
they can control. They create contingency plans, and after the task they remember
proactively, learning from their mistakes without dwelling on them.
defensive pessimists are comfortable with this approach, other people aren't.
So defensive pessimists should:
why others react negatively to your strategy, and, says Wellesley College psychology
professor Julie Norem, "don't take it personally."
to others, "This is how I do things. I have to play through what might happen."
Or keep quiet. It's not necessary
to run through scenarios out loud or in the presence of others-particularly children,
who may become needlessly frightened. (Anxious children, on the other hand, benefit
from guided use of defensive pessimism.)
contrast, strategic optimists are not by nature anxious, so their goal is to stay
that way. They prepare for tasks but don't let themselves think about how they'll
do-this induces anxiety, which hinders performance. Afterward they tend to attribute
success to their own talents and ability, and failure to bad luck or others' poor
you're a strategic optimist, Norem has two pieces of advice: work with someone
who is a defensive pessimist, and "Listen to him or her!" A defensive
pessimist's trouble-shooting habits will rescue you from your greatest stumbling
blocks: overconfidence and underpreparation.
defensive pessimists, avoiders and self-handicappers are anxious by nature.
But their "coping" strategies are self-defeating. Because avoiders stay
away from situations that induce anxiety, they can't gain experience, much less
succeed. For self-handicappers, in contrast, the thought of failure induces anxiety,
so they procrastinate or self-medicate, creating prepackaged excuses. Both types
are so focused on avoiding anxiety that they miss out on "flow," or
the enjoyable process of losing oneself in a task.
you fall into either camp:
your strategy should be to approach rather than to run away.
that you will fail-particularly while changing strategies and also long after
adopting the new strategy. Remember: that's how to gain experience for future
yourself feel anxiety, but don't dwell on it. Get on with your goal.
matter what your strategy, Norem offers hope: "Strategies-especially compared
to traits like introversion and extroversion-are relatively changeable,"
she writes. "Rationally, we should change strategies, or drop current strategies,
when we no longer need them or when they don't work well; likewise, we should
be able to learn new strategies."
you use strategies inconsistently, she recommends paying attention to when you
feel the least anxious and notice which strategy you're using. When deciding whether
to change strategies, evaluate your goal, Norem advises, and your approach's costs
and benefits in reaching that goal. If your strategy no longer works, the best
strategy is to let it go.
- Sharla A. Stewart