Take advantage of negative feedback

use negative feedback to your advantageThere are moments you become aware of reality as other people experience this with you… not always in a positive sense.

Negative feedback is often not in line with your own self-image. You might not even recognize it.

If you are confronted with this kind of negative feedback you may choose to ignore it. But you can also choose to examine the feedback and use it to your advantage.

Negative feedback is useful to achieve you goals quicker and more effectively together with other people. How do you do this?

Accept and use negative feedback

In the first place it’s only possible to use negative feedback after you have first accepted it. In our opinion its necessary, if only for practical reasons, to learn how to accept that people say or do certain things without remaining stuck in feeling hurt or having your self-confidence permanently damaged.

Much is to be gained here in inner calm and the self-confidence that you are able to give an adequate response. To make this possible you need to learn how you accept negative feedback. More about this later.

Once you have accepted the negative feedback you can then use it to your advantage. Negative feedback enables you to learn how you can achieve your goal more easily with these people.

What is feedback?

In a certain way feedback is nothing more than information that people give you. It’s information about what they need so you can achieve your goal.

Of course we are not talking here about feedback that goes against your values and against the normal rules of behaviour. We’re talking about normal feedback that people give you about your behaviour, as they experience it.

Feedback says something about what people need from you

Why do you sometimes find it hard to accept negative feedback, or even find it hard to recognize? This is because you behave the way you do directed by your own point of view and worldview. Other people look at you from their own point of view and perspective. Apparently, from their point of view, they need other things from you than you are giving them.

Their experience does not need to be true or even correct. It’s true for them, and thereby becomes valuable information about what they need.

An adequate response to negative feedback

As we said before, it’s necessary first to accept the feedback others give you, however painful that may be.

Accept that other people operate from a different reality: their own. Their feedback is not necessarily ‘true’, but it is true for them.

Examine how you can deal with this information in a manner that is suitable to who you are. Often it is very helpful to engage a coach in the process of learning how to deal with negative feedback.

In the process of accepting that the reality of other people is a given the coach will teach you the right self-management skills. Good coaching will help you to apply these. You do this while confronting what people say and do in the situations you want to be able to deal with.

The coach acts as a guide. At the same time the coach represents those aspects of other people’s behaviour you find it difficult to handle. You receive the feedback, the information and the skills to adapt your behaviour in a suitable way. Suitable means it fits with who you are, while you will be able to give others what the need in a natural manner.

You will find the self-confidence to deal with situations and interactions where before you were not, or insufficiently so.

See negative feedback as an advantage

In a way, you should be happy that you are getting negative feedback. These people take the trouble to inform you how you can get better at achieving your goal. (Often people don’t even give you feedback directly – they do however share their point of view with others. A coach can play a role here as well – by letting you experience how others might perceive you).

After you have learned to accept that others have their own point of view, you are able to start using their feedback as valuable information. Your behaviour and how these people perceive it might be a missing link between you and achieving your goal.

Look at it as a kind of instruction manual. If you want to achieve a certain goal with these people, you need to take into account what they need from you. Find out what it is they need, and then find a way to give them what they need in a way that fits with who you are. You’ll get ahead together.

© Iris Dorreboom and Rudi de Graaf

Take advantage of our coaching offer

Dealing with negative feedback and using it to your advantage is a soft skill. Applying this soft skill takes resilience, as well as a certain self-insight and self-confidence. As indicated in the article above, coaching in applying this skill to use negative feedback to your advantage is very helpful. Look at our coaching offer and see if we are the coach for you.

When you liked this article, you might also likeCritical feedback? Here’s how to receive it, or: How to get the feedback you need to get ahead.

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5 positive habits to overcome a setback

5 things to overcome a setback

Make the best of it

Resilience is: having the belief in your ability to overcome a setback and achieve a meaningful goal despite the adverse circumstances.

You can nurture this belief in your ability to bounce back and carry on. You do this best when you look for eventual benefits that can be reaped while overcoming a setback. People who are resilient are able to do this.

They are somehow able to keep a positive outlook and try to make the best of a bad situation. As a result of making the best of it, they are able to draw on resources of courage and resourcefulness we all have. How do they do this?

Nothing is entirely unchangeable.
Look for the one thing
that is within your power
to change the situation for the better.

Easy for you?

In our personal experience, it definitely helps to have a ‘list of things to do that might help’ when you are faced with a setback. Of course, we are aware that these lists have a certain ‘easy for you’ quality at the moment you are confronted with negative experiences. However, once you have absorbed the first shock, it’s good practice to follow those people who have shown to be resilient and overcome a setback.

5 habits to overcome a setback

Here are 5 habits resilient people practice to keep a positive mindset in the face of adverse circumstances. Below we will explain in general terms how doing these things can boost your resilience and help you overcome a setback.

To be really useful, you have to adapt them to yourself and your circumstances. (Coaching in making these attitudes personally applicable is very useful in our experience.)

  1. Maintain a hopeful outlook.
  2. Take actions that don’t fight the setback, but that see it as feedback
  3. Attempt positive restructuring of demanding circumstances.
  4. Avoid interpreting crises or stressful events as unchangeable problems.
  5. Accept circumstances that cannot be changed.

1 Maintain a hopeful outlook

Hope is nothing else but believing that something you wish for is possible and probable. For most people what they believe to be possible and probable shrinks when they are presented with a setback.

Maintaining a hopeful outlook in the face of a setback is therefore not a given. You have to actively keep your focus on what you still believe to be possible. You also have to look for ways you can make your wished-for outcome probable again. The best way to do this is to look for a small action you can do now that will take you in the right direction.

2 Take actions that don’t fight the setback, but that see it as feedback

Most of the time fighting the setback is a waste of time and energy. Looking at the setback as feedback is a wiser approach.

Look at what you want to achieve. Then look at the setback. Consider it as feedback. Decide what action will take the feedback you found into account and bring you closer to your goal.

3 Attempt positive restructuring of demanding circumstances

Most setbacks are negative experiences initially. However, when you attempt positive restructuring of the situation, you may see an opportunity in the setback to progress toward your goal in a different way.

This does not mean you deny there is a setback. You do take that into account as well. It does mean that you actively look for ways to restructure the circumstances. Positive restructuring means looking for an alternative way you can still progress toward your goal, despite the setback.

4 Avoid depicting crises or stressful events as unchangeable problems

It is quite natural when facing a setback or a crisis to react by seeing the problem as an unchangeable given. However, whenever you give in to that thought, this makes you powerless. The truth of the matter is – nothing is entirely unchangeable. Look for the one (maybe small or even tiny) thing that is within your power to change the situation for the better. See what happens. And start looking for the next thing.

5 Accept circumstances that cannot be changed

This seems in contradiction to what was said above. However, some things really are beyond your influence and will have a bearing on you no matter what.

All the energy you spend on defence or fighting against it isn’t invested in recovering and taking the right actions or at least attempting to find what they would be.

To accept a circumstance merely means that when the postman brings you a parcel, you receive it. You don’t have to do anything with it yet, only accept it.

Once you have accepted it, you can start looking for ways to deal with it. This may take some time. Acceptance is not always easy. Take the time you need. Then look for what you need to deal with the situation in the best possible way.

Coaching resilience

Research shows resilient people practice these 5 habits when faced with setbacks or adverse circumstances. Some people do this by nature. Most people benefit from some advice and practice in making them applicable in their own life.

Coaching can assist you in making these habits part of your own repertoire. You’ll be able to use them when you need them, in your own way. We cordially invite you to ask us how you might benefit from making resilience skills your own.

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By Iris Dorreboom and Rudi de Graaf

Resilience and dealing with setbacks successfully is one of the soft skills we coach managers and professionals in.

This article is part of a series about resilience. You might also be interested in reading:

Tips to boost your resilience at work

5 Benchmark practices to boost your resilience at work

ADDED BONUS TO RESILIENCE: A positive outlook may be good for your health! Read this article in The New York Times that relates how a positive outlook also has a positive effect on your health and wellbeing.

5 Benchmark practices to boost your resilience at work

5 benchmarks to boost resilience at workWhen you are at work, you will inevitably meet adverse circumstances. Things will not always go your way. They may even go against you sometimes.

What to do when reality is less yielding than you hoped it would be? When this occurs, personal resilience is the critical success factor.

This series of articles shows you ways in which you can boost your resilience at work. The tips and practices we describe are based on what research has shown people with good personal resilience consistently do. They are a benchmark of best practices.

Here you’ll find 5 benchmark practices that you can use now to boost your resilience at work. Try them on and see how they work for you.

5 Benchmark practices to boost your resilience at work

Following is a list of 5 good benchmark practices to boost resilience. You have to make them specific for you, your situation, and possibly the circumstances you have to answer.

  1. Maintain good relationships.
  2. Develop realistic goals and move towards them.
  3. Look for opportunities of self-knowledge and self-reliance.
  4. Develop self-confidence.
  5. Keep a long-term perspective.

1. Maintain good relationships

Recall the Golden Rule that is part of all known traditions and that basically says: treat others how you would like to be treated yourself. Make this practical and you know how to maintain good relationships.

Why is maintaining good relationships important to boost resilience at work? Truthfully, maintaining good relationships is good for almost anything in life. That is why developing your soft skills is so important for your life and career. (We offer coaching in developing your soft skills, including resilience).

However, when you are faced with setbacks, it turns out that people with a good social network fare much better than people whose network is not as strongly developed. They turn out to be more resilient. It’s not just that you get more emotional and psychological support. A good network is also valuable to help you overcome setbacks in more practical ways.

2. Develop realistic goals and move towards them

Realistic goals are those that are in line with what you really want, and that also take into account the down-to-earth consideration where you are now in relation to your goal. When done right, a pragmatic doable next step will present itself, whatever the circumstances. When you do this consistently, you will be trained in finding alternative routes to your goal. (For more on this method of achieving goals, look for our articles in the category Achieving goals with soft skills).

3. Look for possibilities of self-knowledge and self-reliance

When you know more about yourself, what drives you and what inhibits you, your character traits and beliefs, you may see why you react to life in general and setbacks in particular the way you do. Look for ways in which you can help yourself to react in a positive way to setbacks. This puts setbacks in a different perspective and in this new light. Confidence in your own resources will increase.

4. Develop self-confidence 

Setbacks are often occasions for self-doubt. By fighting the setback or taking the setback as a point of departure for your thinking and acting, you feed the reason for self-doubt. Faith in your own power of dealing with life derives from the thought that you always have the possibility to give a confident personal answer. The mere recall of this idea is enough to build self-confidence and boost resilience.

5. Keep a long-term perspective

The closer you are to something, the more limited your outlook. Your evaluation of it will be more subjective. Problems will increase in relative significance.

All this improves when you take a step back and embrace the long view. The long view should focus on what you want, what drives you and what you feel confident about. This makes it possible to see what action you need to take now, whatever the circumstances, to achieve your long-term goals.

Do these 5 things consistently, and you will be resilient when it counts

Resilient people do the things described here consistently. They really practice them.

What you do consistently largely determines what you bring about. When you train regularly it will produce an outcome in increased ability, comprehension, and e.g. confidence. These are effects, no matter what your personal point of departure is in physical, emotional or mental condition.

When you have done something consistently, you will reap the benefits when you need them. If you practice these 5 benchmarks, you will be more resilient to setbacks when they come.

Coaching in the 5 benchmarks to boost your resilience at work

As with a ‘real’ training, coaching to assist you in finding the best way you can practice them is beneficial. We’ll be happy to be your coach in boosting your resilience at work.

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By Iris Dorreboom and Rudi de Graaf

To be continued…

In the next article, we’ll show you how a positive mindset can boost your resilience at work. Of course, we’ll also show you how to strengthen a positive mindset in the moments when you really need it.

Read the first article in the series: Resilience is a learnable skill.


Setback at work? Keep your eye on the goal

setback at workHow to handle setbacks at work with the aid of a compelling goal

Dealing with a setback at work is not always easy. Matters like a missed promotion, losing a valued client, or a team result that falls short are at least disappointing and often frustrating.

However, especially when it’s a work related setback, it’s important that you get past the setback and back on track as soon as possible.

This article proposes a way to make it easier to take the appropriate steps to quickly bounce back from a setback at work.

What will keep you positive in the face of a setback?

The reality is of course that you cannot force positive emotions to appear by denial of the situation. You will, undeniably, experience some negative emotions when confronted by a setback.

The question is: do these negative emotions get the upper hand? Or are you able to absorb the negative emotions and start doing something positive about the setback?

You need something that will keep you positive and willing to find the right answer in the face of the setback. Much research has been done on what makes this kind of resilience possible. There are certain ‘pre-conditions’, such as personality factors, but e.g. also a support network, that make some people more able to get past setbacks than others.

However, there is one more thing that will make it more likely you will react to a setback with resilience and a positive outlook. That is a compelling and valued goal.

A compelling goal aids in getting past setbacks

As with most issues, a goal that is valuable, meaningful and relevant to your self-concept is the critical success factor. It provides you with the reason and the energy to continue past the setback. It makes it easier to take the requisite steps to bounce back from a setback and continue on your way.

What are the requisite steps to bounce back

and how does a compelling goal help?

1. Accept and digest

The first step in bouncing back from a setback at work is to accept and digest that you experienced a setback. As said, it is quite normal to experience some negative emotions. The key to getting past the setback quickly is to acknowledge these emotions, but not get stuck.

Getting stuck is less of an option when you have a compelling goal that pulls you forward. Although the setback will still hurt, your perspective on the goal will help you get up and do something positive. This brings us to the second point.

2. Keep your focus on the long term

To get past a setback you need a long-term perspective. Focusing on the goal you want to achieve will provide you with this. When you focus on your goal, you see the setback for what it is: a temporary check in your progress towards your goal.

The long-term perspective of a compelling goal prevents that your focus remains on the setback. It allows you to look past this temporary check and invent options to get past the setback. This brings us to the third point. Inventing options is best done when you have evaluated what caused the setback.

3. Evaluate and learn

A setback is not something you look forward to. However, that it happens is inevitable. One way to get past a setback more quickly and even profit from it is to learn from it.

  • Look at the setback.
  • Evaluate what went wrong.
  • Assess what you need to do different next time.
  • Decide on a first objective that will get you past the setback.

This exercise is more valuable when you evaluate and learn in relation to your goal. Your evaluation gains in focus. It also makes the decision on the next step you need to take beyond the setback easier. You just have to ask yourself what would bring you closer to your goal at this moment.

4. Stamina and confidence

This last point is not so much a ‘step’, but more of a prerequisite. You need emotional and psychological stamina to get past a setback. A compelling goal boosts your ability to be in it for the long haul and take setbacks in your stride.

After some experience you might even interpret setbacks as just another challenge to be overcome. Instead of taking energy, the process of finding and giving the right answers to the setback and get closer to your goal empowers you. You will feel confident that one way or the other, you will find a way to reach your goal. The setback will not keep you back.

Setback at work? Keep your eye on the goal

Of course, having a compelling goal does not guarantee you will never come into a situation that hurts, or that knocks you over. It does not even guarantee that you have to, figuratively, sit down for a bit before you continue on your way.

It just makes it more likely you that will stand up, regard the obstacle as a challenge you can take and act positively. You will have a valuable incentive for taking the required steps in dealing with setbacks at work.

By Iris Dorreboom and Rudi de Graaf

Do you want to know more about how to handle setbacks at work, or how to achieve your goals easily? Those are soft skills we coach professionals and managers in. You’re very welcome to ask us your questions about it.

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Tips to boost your resilience at work

resilience-at-workResilience. You need resilience as a professional if things don’t go as planned, or you encounter difficult work situations. You have to be able to bounce back and return to competent functioning. In this series of blogs we’ll tell you more about what it is, where to find it, and most importantly: how you can boost your resilience at work.

This first blog in the series concentrates on boosting your resilience at work by showing you that resilience is a learnable skill.

What do you need resilience for?

Resilience is the ability to give a positive answer to negative experiences.

Here are some examples of situations where you might need resilience. Something negative happens to you that causes emotional stress. You name it – your new work colleague that you thought would be a big help turns out to be more of a hindrance. Your boss has a bad mood and chooses you to pick on. The client that was supposed to be a large part of your portfolio decides they like the other party better after all. You were sure you were going to get that promotion this time, but it doesn’t happen.

All these are negative experiences that might leave you a bit frazzled (or even genuinely upset). What you need is the resilience to bounce back and give a positive answer to the emotional stress these negative experiences cause. You need resilience so you will be able to return to competent functioning.

Resilience can be learned

While we are all born with resilience as a built-in possibility of behavior, some people are obviously more resilient than others. There are many factors that are responsible for this, but the main one is very encouraging for those of us who wish for more resilience.

First of all, resilience is not a static trait. Resilience is an active, conscious adaptation to any change in the form of adversity, disturbance or any other factor of perceived risk. People who are more resilient than others know how to give a positive answer to a negative experience. Bouncing back after a negative experience to competent functioning appears to be a process that you can learn!

How you boost your resilience

We all have points of frustration, anger, failure, disappointment, humiliation, letdown, irritation, defeat, mistakes, confusion, embarrassment and what not. Being resilient implies you are capable to emotionally protect yourself against the (sometimes overwhelming) influences of these negative experiences. You are able to give a positive, resilient answer.

Giving this positive answer means you have to make an emotional stretch. Instead of giving in to the negative emotions engendered by negative experiences, you consciously choose to answer them by positive action. Making this emotional stretch is one of the things you can learn.

What do resilient people do?

Resilient people know how to make the emotional stretch that is necessary to have a positive answer to negative experiences. How do they do that? They show consciously learned behavior when dealing with negative experiences.

Here’s what usually happens
If we have not learned consciously to deal with negative experiences, our primary bodily functions take over. We exhibit the normal stress reactions that you probably know about: freeze, flight or fight. These stress reactions make you incapable of using, let alone boosting, your resilience.

Each one of us has his or her own particular physical reflexes, emotional habits, and routine mental mindsets when yielding to stress involuntarily.

In learning how to be resilient in the face of stressing events you need to know what your particular ‘risk factors’ are in responding negatively. Knowing them you will be able to define the kind of resilience you require to give a positive response.

What are your ‘risk factors’?

All risk factors manifest themselves as negative emotions and as a kind of rationalized sense that something is done to you by another person.

Both the negative emotions and the sense that something is done to you by someone else cause you to lose your sense of being in control of the situation. When this occurs, an appropriate positive response is no longer adequately possible. Your actions will instead be driven by negative emotions.

Ask yourself this: what are my habitual responses to negative or stressful events? Click To Tweet

Do you react with anger, blame, shame, feigned indifference, irritation, complaining… (These are just some of the responses we’ve heard during the years from our coaching clients. Our own are anger and irritation).

Resilient people acknowledge these emotional responses and have learned how to deal with them in a resilient way. For instance, when they get angry, they do not react immediately to the person that seems to be causing the anger. Instead, they take time to reflect on what would be an appropriate response. That response might still be angry. Above all however, it will be adequate and professional.

Learning how to do this is a very personal process. Tackling such a process with a coach heightens the learning and success rate considerably. (See our coaching offer here.)

Do I blame the other person for the situation?

Take a recent negative event in mind. Now answer this: Do I blame the other person for this situation more than myself? Don’t worry, most of us do, at least initially.

However, in order to boost your resilience, you need to take self-responsibility. That is what resilient people do first and foremost. This means that the question of what the other person may be blamed for becomes largely irrelevant. What does become relevant is this question and your answer to it:

What can I do right now to influence the situation in a positive way?

Don’t say ‘nothing’ too soon. There’s always something you can do. Sometimes even leaving the situation for now may be the right answer.

Resilience means you have the capability to bounce back from your initial emotional and negative response. A resilient response to negative experiences is primarily based on the ability to manage your own negative impulses. Boosting your resilience at work begins here:

  • Know your ‘risk factors’ and find a way to deal with them.
  • Take self-responsibility and take positive action when faced with a negative event.

You can learn to be more resilient. We at The Good Career & Life coaching for professionals would be happy to advice you.

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By Iris Dorreboom and Rudi de Graaf

Resilience is one of the soft skills we coach managers and professionals in.

Personal Change can be an opportunity!

Personal change –  you may see it as a threat you have to defend yourself against. You might however also use it as an opportunity to establish a meaningful outcome.

Change as opportunityDefending yourself against personal change is wasted effort…

Personal change usually causes anxiety, especially when the change is unwanted or unexpected. The anxiety, in its turn, leads you to perceive change as something you have to defend yourself against.

When we are on the defensive, our actions are usually at their least productive. They can be misdirected and have a contrary effect when initiated by anxiety and opposition or prevention. At a minimum this defense effort is lost energy that can be better used in establishing what you do want.

Focusing on what you do want will lower stress and anxiety, and consequently lower your defensiveness. This will allow you the mental space to establish what a positive and meaningful outcome of the change would be for you.

Personal change offers an opportunity too!

Picture someone buying new glasses. The optician, switching between different lenses to determine the right ones asks: ‘Any clearer now?’ In this same way you have to help yourself and consciously change the lenses of your perception of change.

Instead of seeing change as a threat you have to defend yourself against, you can see change as a personal opportunity to establish a meaningful outcome.

We are not saying here that a change process is nothing but an opportunity. Of course there are possible negative consequences you have to be aware of. However, we are saying you should not let your perception be drawn exclusively to these possible negative consequences. That is what tends to happen when you let change put you on the defensive.

Your opportunity to establish what you do want is still there; you just don’t have the mental space to focus on it. This is occupied by your focus on the possible negative outcome of the change.

What usually happens under the stress of personal change

Because you expect negative consequences to come from the change, you start looking for them with the ‘lenses’ that can perceive this negativity. What you expect you invite into your perception. In a way you force your perception to perceive the proof of what you feared.

This is all part of the stress change generates. Stress puts your system under pressure and under pressure you easily feel reasons to defend yourself against something.

The very fact that you perceive change as a threat works like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your defensive attitude and the accompanying thinking and acting prove there was a reason to be on the defensive. As a consequence of this win-lose interaction, the opportunity that would have been personally relevant whatever the change brings is lost in the fight.

How to avoid wasting effort in battling personal change

As easily as the opportunity to find a positive meaning in change is lost, it can also as easily be found again by applying the following:

  1. First become aware of your defensiveness.
  2. Next determine what is meaningful to you.

Become aware of your defensiveness

Defensiveness leads to wanting to get away from something or to prevent it from happening. Although this is sometimes necessary in unfavorable circumstances, it does curtail your freedom of action. It is as if you row a boat with a bucket behind it.

  • Defensiveness is characterized by avoidance, prevention, and restraint. Do you detect any of these in your feeling and actions?
  • Question yourself if you feel or see constraints in the situation. Do the possibilities and opportunities for you feel limited? Are you able to establish if this is factually the case?

Not to defend yourself when you feel threatened is counterintuitive, just like having to steer into the skid and accelerating is when your car is in a slip. You have to go against your reflexes. That takes training.

  • The first step is to become aware when you are on the defensive.
  • Then investigate what you are defensive about.
  • Next determine what is a factual and present threat, and what is just an expectation.

This usually leads to enough space in your awareness to be able to direct your attention at what you do want from the change.

Determine what is meaningful to you

Directing your focus away from what you don’t want toward what you do want involves looking both at what you want to achieve, and at what you want to retain.

  • Resolve what is most important to retain in this change situation.

(You don’t have to know how you will do this yet. Just be aware of what is important to you to keep present in your life).

  • Subsequently establish and specify what you want to attain. What would be a meaningful outcome for you?
  • See what the possibilities are to take free and unhindered action to retain and attain what is meaningful to you in this change situation. ‘Unhindered’ is free of anything you have to do before you can take the actual action, and free of any real or imagined restrictions.

Your opportunity in personal change

Determining what is meaningful to you permits you to direct your primary focus at what you do want instead of at what you do not want. This doesn’t imply that you should ignore or disregard limitations, threats, and pressure. On the contrary: be aware, verify, and test the reality of the goal you set.

However, taking action gets more powerful with less input when you first focus on what you do want. Then, while executing the positive action, take into account the tested reality of possible limitations and threats. This will at least ensure that the change will bring you more of what is meaningful to you than would otherwise be the case.

That’s the opportunity change offers to you.

By Iris Dorreboom and Rudi de Graaf

The Good Career and Life coaching for professionals: When you are confronted with change or are planning a change in your life, it is important to use the opportunity to ensure a meaningful outcome. A coaching conversation will keep you on track.

Dealing with personal change requires resilience. Resilience and handling setbacks is one of the soft skills we offer coaching in.

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Photo credits:
(c) Can Stock Photo /KathyDee

Dealing with personal change: what will you encounter?

dealing with personal changeDealing with change should be easy. We do it all the time, after all. But unfortunately, dealing with change, especially change you didn’t ask for, turns out to be hard for most people.

The personal change process is an emotional process

It might help you to know a little more about what a personal change process usually does to people in terms of the emotional manifestations that color what you experience and influence what you see as possible. Recognizing where you are in the process of personal change, and what emotions you might encounter, turns out to have value as something to hold on to in confusing times.

The change process is characterized by certain stages of development. These ‘stages’ do not always follow each other in a fixed order. They might occur together, overlap, or you might even skip part of the process.

Looking at change through the model we will present you with will however give you a rough idea of what you might expect, and how you can deal with the different stages you encounter.

Personal change: a description of what to expect

One of the best-known descriptions of the stages of a personal change process is that of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. She was a Swiss psychiatrist, and published her book On Death and Dying in 1969. The different ‘stages’ that Elizabeth Kübler-Ross described in her book are a description of the stages of grief. These stages are in their development very similar to most other personal change processes. You can find more information about Kübler-Ross’s model on the web[1].

Below you find a description of what the stages of personal change might do to your emotions and to the focus of your attention. It is an adaptation of the one used by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. It is based both on our personal experience and that of many people we have known and worked with who went through the process of personal change.

The map is not the territory!

Please keep in mind that it is a schematic representation of a general reality. Any scheme is first of all a rationalized representation. As an individual you have to make it applicable to your own personal circumstances and mode of giving meaning.

Especially for this last aspect, you need to be able to understand your specific typology and its consequences for giving meaning, your behavior in these circumstances, and its influence on e.g. your interaction with others. All these aspects are of critical influence on how you deal with change. We developed a methodology to help you discover these aspects of your personal make-up.

The ‘stages’ of CHANGE

We describe the change process and its ‘stages’ using the first letters of the word CHANGE.

C      Confusion
H      How to go on
A      Affliction
N      New
G      Get the feel of it
E      Emerge and Evolve

C – Confusion

is the first reaction to the shock of what happens. You don’t know what to do, how to react. You may feel: distracted, upset, self-doubting, disturbed, disorganized, distressed, even angry.

H – How to go on

Depending on the severity of the shock of the change, people tend to sink into their own mood and can be a little (or a lot) disconnected from the outer world. The feelings you can have alternate between temporarily denying anything is the matter at all (defending yourself against the shock), unbelief, to feeling frozen in the moment and unable to go on. You know you can’t go back, but you don’t know how to go forward either. This stage can coincide or follow soon after the stage of Confusion.

A – Affliction

is what is usually felt after the shock has sunk in. The feelings of disorder and distress may increase and can be mixed with feelings of depression, sadness and loss. These feelings may alternate with anger or antagonism. At times they lead to passivity and even inertia, and feelings of hopelessness. People tend to take less care of themselves when they are in the midst of these emotions.

Good counsel is however not what is needed during this time. People just need undemanding company and a listening ear.

N – New

is the stage where all these feelings seem to lose their sharp edge. A glimmer of new life and possibilities appears from time to time. You give a new or at least different meaning with more possibility for interaction in these moments. Most people are now more open to advice and less in need of emotional support. These first moments come and go, but usually grow in number and intensity.

G – Get the feel of it

is the stage when people start actively exploring the new possibilities. It is a testing phase, where the ‘old’ is still present in thoughts and actions. The new is set off against it. People try out what seems worthwhile and tend to be more resistant to the feedback from the outside world.

E – Emerge and Evolve

is the last stage of the change process. You embrace new things and find an application in a new environment or stage of life. The feelings of loss still sometimes emerge, but you can  accept them as part of the new life, the life after the change.

A foothold to deal with change

However much these ‘stages’ are a rationalized scheme, they offer a foothold when they are recognized. It doesn’t make the road of change much easier, just less slippery and lonely.

By Iris Dorreboom and Rudi de Graaf

The Good Career and Life coaching for professionals: If you’re going through a personal change process, and would like to know more about how to deal with the different ‘stages’ of the process, a conversation with us may be helpful.

Going through personal change requires resilience. Resilience is one of the soft skills we offer coaching in.

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[1] See e.g. the website of the Elizabeth Kübler-Ross foundation. http://www.ekrfoundation.org/five-stages-of-grief/

Photo credits:
(c) Can Stock Photo /ryanking999

How to handle change in career and life

handling changeHow to handle change in your career and life is something that many people we speak to would like to know. We live in a changing world – being able to cope with change is almost a requirement to get through life at all.

Change occurs in many forms and variations, from the ones you chose yourself (a new job) to the ones that come along without you asking for them (losing your job).
So, how to handle change successfully?

First: how NOT to handle change

Change is real. You can think of it almost as a person. It has traits, and it has a character that has specific prescriptions to deal with it. If you have to deal with someone, you’d want to understand what drives this ‘person’.

The main thing about ‘change’ can be understood when you answer this question about yourself: ‘How would I like it if I were handled?’ If you are like most people, you won’t like it. So if change were a person, handling it will probably cause effects you don’t want.

Once you start handling change, it will never stop – your very actions seem to activate it. This is the logical result of focusing on the change and interacting with it, with the change in charge of the process.

This doesn’t imply you should be in charge of the change. You can’t be. But you can learn to be in charge of yourself. Your focus should change – from focusing on the change, to focusing on WHAT YOU NEED AND WANT.

If you can’t handle change, what can you do?

The first requirement is to accept that change is a process that you have to weather – the change is there, and you have to deal with it.

To deal with change successfully, you have to decide what meaning you give to the change process. If you don’t give your own meaning to the change, the change will dictate what your response will be.

To be able to give your own meaning to the change, you need to stop focusing on the change, and instead focus on these two things:


What you can’t do without.

One of the things that change does with you is to take the bottom from under your certainties. What was ‘normal’ is normal no longer. One of the factors most often overlooked in dealing with a change is just this:

  • What do I need to remain and still be there after the change?

The answer to this question can be given once you know what is of critical importance to you, and consequently what you need to retain in your life.

Answer these questions:

  • What is of critical importance to me in my life?
  • What is of critical importance to me in my work?


  • What do you want to retain and maintain in your life/work/relationships?

Not all is equally critical. Spend a minute or two to divide them as follows. What is:

  • Fixed
  • Flexible
  • Negotiable

What do you want to come out of the change?

The next thing you need to focus on is what you want to achieve. What do you want to come out of this change? Usually, this is something that you will have thought about when the change is a self-chosen one.

But what about when the change has been forced on you? Counterintuitively, in that situation it is even more critical that you focus on what YOU want to achieve.

Say you’ve lost your job. Of course, there will be an emotional backlash. But still, as soon as you feel able, you should ask yourself: ‘What do I want to come out of this?’ This question will be easier to answer if you’ve answered the questions about what is of critical importance to you first.

Now you’re able to deal with the change

Once you know what is of critical importance to you and what you want to achieve, you have found something certain to hold on to. Instead of handling the change, which is ephemeral, you now have something concrete to focus on.

This then will be your focus on what the change involves. Until that moment the change was in charge of the process of giving meaning. Now you give meaning to the change from the focus of what you want to maintain and achieve. Instead of handling change, you’ll be able to deal with it on your terms.

By Iris Dorreboom and Rudi de Graaf

The Good Career and Life coaching for professionals: When you’re in a situation where you have to deal with change in your life or career, it’s helpful to have a coaching conversation to discuss what you want to keep and what you want to achieve.

Handling change successfully requires resilience. Resilience is one of the soft skills we offer coaching in.

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      Photo credits

(c) Can Stock Photo /ieva

How to reinvent yourself

Reinvent yourself

Sometimes life puts you in a position where you feel the need to reinvent yourself. It might be because your career doesn’t fit you any longer, because your job is threatened, because you want to start out for yourself, or because your personal life is changing. The ‘old way’ just doesn’t seem to work for you anymore.

But: how to go about reinventing yourself? Despite the fact that self-help books, articles and courses on the subject abound, many people still find it very hard to reinvent themselves.

What if there was a way to reinvent yourself without changing who you are?

Reinventing, according to the dictionary, is: to replace (something) with an entirely new version. That sounds like rather a tough undertaking, doesn’t it? No wonder you’d find it hard to reinvent yourself.
Is it even possible to reinvent yourself, that is, to replace who you are now with an entirely new version of you?
The short answer is: No, it isn’t.

The longer answer is: you don’t need to. You don’t need an entirely new version of yourself. What was once original about you still is, and still is in you. All you need to do is to re-find it, let it refresh you, and allow it to find a new application. That is true reinvention.

How NOT to reinvent yourself

All the ‘old’ thinking and doing ended up in the feeling you had to reinvent or refresh yourself. To regenerate what isn’t up to par anymore requires fresh thinking and doing. Yet, the fresh idea that will bring this reinvention forth must be found in yourself. After all, it’s about you and only you know what fits.

Obviously this gives you the problem to find something ‘fresh’ within what apparently, because of being sort of stale, is the very occasion you feel the need to refresh.

This paradox tempts people to look elsewhere than within themselves. They look at how other people in their situation have gone about reinventing themselves. They follow well-meaning advice from people who have either ‘been there’, or just want to help you out by showing you ‘similar cases’.

Yet, precisely this temptation to look outside yourself at what other people did is why the process of reinvention is often felt to be so frustrating. You cannot find something where it isn’t.

Something that is of not of you cannot be suitable for you. It is your puzzle and therefore the fresh jigsaw pieces you need for a reinvented life are already in your box.

How to reinvent yourself: Don’t change who you are

Once you realize change is necessary, this fact is usually emotionally hard to accept. Still, research (and our own hard-won experience) shows that the critical success factor of successfully reinventing yourself is to look in your own life for what works for you.

That which works for you can be found by tracking back in time to what was once the original you. It is still there. Don’t change who you are, just find a new application for what is original, and therefore fitting, to you.

How do you recognize what is original to you?

A common feature of original thought is excitement, energy and a kind of certainty and self-confidence. The impulse most commonly following from this thought or feeling centers on sharing. We are excited about an idea, a discovery, a possibility etc. and immediately we want to share it.

What is shared in this way has its root in an original thought by you.

  • Wouldn’t it be fun to …
  • I really would like to …
  • If we change this it would really …

At first it’s just a thought

Beware that these original thoughts and its impulses are not yet the practical application. It is important to realize and accept that original thought is at first not at all about the outside, but restricted to your inside. Many failed reinventing efforts get stuck in attempting application too soon.

Reinvention is about ideas that are right for you. Application is the next step and not restricted to you anymore. Reinvention is about you. Application is about the world and you. The next step is application. Don’t skip the first step – find the original ideas that excite you.

What excites you so much that you want to share it?

Focus on you, and let go of the thought of practicality and whether people would appreciate it. This is about you and what excites you. What was once new for you still is present in its original thought. See if the thought or feeling gives you a feeling of excitement and a kind of certainty and self-confidence.

Once you find these original thoughts, you can take the next step: find a practical application for them. You can find ideas of how to go about it in the practical application below.

By Iris Dorreboom and Rudi de Graaf

The Good Career and Life coaching for professionals: When you feel the need to put your original thoughts in order and find a practical application, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We support you in reinventing yourself in a way that fits with who you are and what you want to achieve.

Reinventing yourself takes resilience. Resilience is one of the soft skills we offer coaching in.

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Practical Application

We assume that you have found the words to describe what excites you and what you would like to share. Interpret ‘sharing’ just as something to explore and find what you can do. See what it brings in original thought that you can apply in the world.

We limit ourselves here to the world of business, were the following conditions apply. Sharing as an element in the world of competition etc. must present itself as a value, a quality, a service and/or a product.

Look at your industry, line of work, or sector. What is neglected? Do you know what annoys customers? What added value could be offered that clients would really like?

Compare what you have found in your industry with what you described about what you would like to share. See if you can find a principle that is congruent for both.

A principle is: an essential characteristic, rule or standard of what you propose. It can focus on behavior, quality, a mode of action, ethics etc. Don’t complicate this; it is just an exercise to explore how you reinvent yourself. The object is to find things to use.

When you have done this, describe a process where an application could be tried out. A process in this case is just an interaction with others.

Determine an action that is accessible for you. Assess what you need to take the action. Try it out and see what you learn. You have now begun your process of reinventing yourself. Good luck!