We say it all the time: “This is hard.” “This sucks.” “I hate this.”
“This.” Sounds innocuous. But using it as a vague catch-all when we’re under emotional duress keeps us feeling helpless and out of control. It mires us in a place of “all or nothing,” where we lose our perspective, judge everything about a situation as wrong and make decisions we regret later. “This is bullshit,” says the SEAL candidate right before he gives up and rings out of Hell Week.
But what is “this” exactly?
Enter my “Pinpoint the Pain” technique. Typically, even though we may feel like a situation is overwhelmingly negative, the source is usually one or two specific elements. Drill down and pinpoint what they are. What about the upcoming client presentation, for example, has got you stressed: Is it that first eye contact with the managing director who wasn’t satisfied with your last deliverable? (We’re talking minute precision, here!)?
If you’re feeling anxious about a difficult conversation you have to have with your CTO, what exactly are you dreading: That uncomfortable moment of asking if he has time to discuss something or the way he sneers when he thinks you’re wrong?
Okay, it’s still unpleasant to contemplate, but homing in on the specific point of resistance prevents your emotion from coloring the whole situation and helps you come up with concrete ways to prepare, which gives you a sense of control.
Pinpointing the pain also helps others help you. In a recent post on his blog, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures VC Charlie O’Donnell, said:
“Identifying exactly what’s wrong directs and focuses your negativity, minimizing the collateral damage of everything else. For example, if you have a difficult conversation with your board about fundraising options while they’re trying to be helpful, saying “This sucks!” makes everyone else feel like they’re wasting their time and not being helpful. Saying that fundraising can be frustrating is better. [Even better], identify what about it sucks–that you’re frustrated that investors aren’t seeing your value proposition or the real traction you believe you’ve made. That’s something actionable that someone else can actually help with, and maybe help you feel better about.”
Pinpointing brings clarity. And clarity breeds focus, which is more likely to lead to success than a nebulous “this.”