Looking to make stronger connections to further your career and your personal life? According to human potential experts and brain scientists, the key is mastering your internal dialogue.
“I’m always getting overlooked for promotions. It’s like I don’t even exist”
“I want to be a better manager, but I’ve never been great at the people side of my job.”
“I just want to feel respected by my colleagues.”
“It feels like my life outside of work is falling apart.”
What do all of these expressions have in common?
Each one of these frustrations ties back to a single challenge: The ability to form healthy connections with the right people in the right way.
As humans, the relationships we form with other people are vital to our mental and emotional health, and our survival.1 Thus, it’s no understatement to say that the quality of those relationships have an immense effect on activating human potential.
Whether we seek to accelerate growth in our career, connect with the right mentors, form lasting friendships with people who understand us, or even find lasting love, our ability to connect in healthy ways with others helps or hinders us at every turn.
In the eyes of some, forming these healthier connections starts with maximizing our style of external communication. However, recent advances in the field of brain science have taught us that, even if the skillset for good communication is present, the quality of our relationships can still suffer.
Why? The answer lies in our internal monologue.
It’s not you. It’s me.
In our previous article, we discuss the basics of root source thinking, and how it limits human potential.
One of the foundational tenets of Cognitive Therapy, “emotional reasoning” is the process by which we create “emotional truths” – ideas based on our deep feelings about something – and act on them as though they were indisputable facts.1
Each time a person concludes that their emotional reaction to something is valid, it becomes their reality. Even when evidence was presented to the contrary, persons would often dismiss or disregard it in favor of the “truth” that felt right.
A perfect illustration of the power of these emotional truths is the elephant & rope scenario.
As history suggests, baby elephants in captivity were (in a less humane time) trained by tying one of their front legs to a stake in the ground. A young elephant will initially struggle and pull at the rope, but eventually concede that they are trapped and can only go so far away from the stake. As they grow into full size, they carry the belief that they are unable to leave a certain radius – even when the elephant has grown strong enough to pull the stake right out of the ground easily.
Similarly, your emotional reasonings are the stake and rope that center our view of ourselves and others. To your brain, emotional reasonings are indisputable facts – even when presented with strong evidence to the contrary. If these reasonings are too far off-center, the result is a lifetime of missed opportunities, self-imposed road-blocks, and wasted potential.
How? Here are some relevant examples:
- The manager who believes she is only an “ok” leader, thus clipping her own ability to connect with and inspire her employees.
- The worker who doesn’t believe they’ll ever “fit in” at work, causing them to promptly miss out on networking opportunities and team-building exercises.
- The person who constantly feels victimized by circumstances in the workplace, and allows these feelings to overshadow their potential within their organization.
- The individual who refuses to leave a toxic friendship/ romantic relationship, ultimately because they don’t believe they deserve better circumstances.
There’s an expression that goes, “As the twig is bent, so the tree grows.” Likewise, cognitive distortions like the above that start as early as childhood can wield incredible influence over our ability to connect with, inspire, and be loved. They shape outcomes in our adult lives.
Here are some common cognitive distortions that often cause strain to our personal and professional relationships2:
Here, an individual makes assumptions about another’s intentions, often assigning ill intent to the other person. For instance, an employee might see feedback from a manager as evidence that they “have it out for them.” Or, a spouse might assume the source of their partner’s behavior is a lack of concern, or that their partner is simply trying to make them angry. Left unchecked, and this thinking can run opportunities for any compassionate problem-solving.
In conflicts, one party is almost never 100% responsible. But a person who personalizes takes all the blame for negative circumstances while downplaying the role others play. Thus, they have a difficult time finding solutions that include another party, making it nearly impossible for them to work well with others.
In this distortion, decisions are all-or-nothing, and the world as a whole seems to be colored by extremes. Thus, an individual with black and white thinking may struggle to see themselves in a balanced way. In their mind, they’re either well-loved or completely unlovable. The person can only accept the resolution of conflicts between themselves and those close to them if one party carries all of the blame, and the other none of it – making them hard for some to be around.
Mislabelling is an overgeneralization run amuck. Here persons make negative, global judgments about people or situations with only one or two observations to base them on. A person who mislabels will see their own errors as irrefutable evidence that they as a whole are a failure. Otherwise minor slights from others are analyzed without context, forming unhealthy judgments of character. Even the language uses to describe people and events is emotionally charged. For example, a coworker’s bad behavior in a one-off incident could easily morph into “so-and-so is difficult to work with.”
With this distortion, a person is trapped in a cycle of anticipating the worst possible outcome in every situation. Disaster is around every corner, hiding in every project, waiting for them in every unscheduled visit from their boss. Problems are almost always followed by “what if” questions that put undue emphasis on unlikely outcomes – “what if this doesn’t work? … “what if I fail?”…“what if everyone thinks I’m a fraud?.” A person who catastrophizes might also exaggerate the importance of certain events, such as their own personal mistakes, or even the success of their counterparts. Or in the reverse case, they may shrink the magnitude of important positive events until they appear insignificant.
Understanding What’s At The Root Of Missed Human Potential
So where do these “emotional reasonings” come from? You guessed it. The “spark” for such reasonings are our thinking patterns – the root thoughts that are almost imperceptible to the conscious mind.
These root thoughts are governed by internal mental processes, which use data from our intrinsic and extrinsic experiences to create the foundation for how we see the world, think about the world, and ultimately behave in the world. Those eight basic psychodynamic processes that mediate human potential are perception, learning, language, thought, attention, memory, motivation, and emotion.
For more on these psychodynamic processes, check out A Brief Introduction To Unlocking Human Potential.
Harnessing the power of your root thinking for better relationships
Although your thinking patterns are a product of years of reinforcement, they can be fixed. Change merely requires identifying those thinking patterns and sticking to a program of relearning.
Want to learn more about reshaping your root source thinking to improve your relationships and your overall potential?
Developed through a study of the principles of neuroplasticity, the Think-X diagnostic is designed to maximize human potential by helping you identify the hidden thought patterns– or “root source thinking”– that either empower or obstruct your efforts to grow.
Unlike a traditional “personality test,” where persons are categorized according to personality, intelligence, and behaviors, Think-X actually helps you measure, and correct counterproductive thinking. In as quickly as 10 minutes, you’ll receive:
- Reporting tested for 95% accuracy
- A video series walkthrough explaining your results
- Coaching tips and tactics for immediate improvement
- Northwestern Medicine. 2021. “5 Benefits of Healthy Relationships”. https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/5-benefits-of-healthy-relationships
- Grohol, J. [2016, May 17]. 15 Common Cognitive Distortions. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/lib/15-common-cognitive-distortions