mardi 19 décembre 2006

Are you acting ‘as if’?

Tuesday 14 February, 11.40 a.m.
For someone whose ‘door is always open’, the Bulldog’s door had
remained tightly shut to Steve in the fortnight since he’d asked
for a chat.
The timing was ironic, Steve reckoned. He had a Valentine’s date
with a man in love – with himself.
As he walked towards Dave’s office, Steve pulled back his shoul-
ders, stiffened his back and began smiling. Dave’s secretary smiled
back, without realizing that Steve was only warming up on her.
Before entering the office, Steve ran through his bullet points one
more time in his head.
‘Regret, reason, remedy … refuse to rise to the bait … main-
tain eye contact … answer questions directly … keep my cool …
come out smiling,’ he rehearsed to himself.
His mind went back to the two evenings with Lynn in which she
had fired all Dave’s barbs at him and he had resisted the pres-
sure. He now had some protection against the hail of bullets he
expected to face.
He’d done the preparation. Now he just had to perform.
‘Come in!’ barked the Bulldog, a second after Steve knocked.
Dave remained seated behind his screen, feverishly knocking out
an email on the keyboard, as Steve stood in front of the desk.
After a few seconds of silence, Steve decided to sit.
‘This will take a couple of minutes,’ said Dave, still battering away.
With a triumphant flourish, he hit the send button.
‘That’ll give him something to think about,’ threatened Dave.
For just a second, Steve considered the possibility that it was all
an act and there was no lucky recipient.
‘Now, you wanted to see me,’ said Dave, leaning back in his
leather seat, placing both his hands behind his head and stretch-
ing his elbows out.
‘Yes indeed,’ began Steve confidently, ‘and thanks for making the
time. As you know, Dave, I’ve been disappointed with my figures
for the past few months …’
‘And you’re not the only one …’ interrupted Dave, preparing for
a monologue. But Steve pressed on:
‘And I acknowledge that’s put a strain on you and on my own
team, which is why I apologized to them last week – and now I
want you to know I’m sorry I’ve been underperforming.’
Dave hesitated and thought of offering words of consolation, but
instead opted for a snarl.
‘Well, there’s no point apologizing after the event,’ he began. ‘It’s
too late by then.’
‘On the contrary,’ began Steve. ‘It’s the only time. But I simply
wanted to explain what had happened and let you know what
I’ve done about it.’
The Bulldog sat impassively, waiting for the first flaw in the argu-
Steve continued. ‘For whatever reason, I feel I’ve lost ground
these last few months. I’ve worked as hard, but the results have
dried up. A bit like United really,’ he joked, weakly.
Dave drew breath, but Steve got in first.
‘Anyway, I’ve had a better fortnight – which will show in next
month’s figures – and you can rest assured the improvement will
be constant.’
So far, so good. The Bulldog seemed pacified, but Steve was still
on his guard.
‘So you can guarantee improved figures?’ was Dave’s calculating
‘No,’ Steve began.
‘No!’ interrupted Dave.
‘No, what I can guarantee,’ continued Steve, ‘is a commitment
to the job and to my team. I’m convinced the promising results of
the last two weeks will continue.’
‘So, no guarantee?’ toyed Dave.
‘My guarantee is one of commitment,’ hit back Steve, ‘and that
way I believe we’ll get the results.’
The Bulldog tried another line of attack.
‘And what if the results don’t come?’ he asked, barely able to
suppress a cruel smile.
‘I believe they will come,’ returned Steve.
‘But if they don’t,’ pressed Dave, ‘what then? Can I expect your
resignation on my desk?’
Steve hesitated.
‘Well?’ barked the Bulldog.
Steve resisted the temptation to fold like the child so bullied by
his father.
‘Absolutely not,’ replied Steve. ‘That’s too easy an option. I want
to fight to see the job done and turn things around. That is what
I believe I can do.’
‘Well, for your sake, I hope you’re right,’ concluded Dave.
‘For everybody’s sake, I want to get it right,’ concluded Steve.
‘And thanks again for your time, Dave.’
Steve reached out his right hand, offering Dave little alternative
but to accept the handshake. The Bulldog even found himself
offering a weak smile in reply to the broad one afforded him by
The former Regional Sales Director of the Year bounced to the car
park, greeting each employee he encountered on the way.
Safely inside the Mondeo, he pressed No. 1 on his mobile’s speed
dial list and waited for Lynn to answer.
After two rings, she duly did, recognizing Steve’s number.
‘Well?’ she asked in anticipation.
‘He’s an ignorant …’ Steve began.
‘Well we know that, but how did it go?’ she insisted.
‘Surprisingly well,’ began Steve. ‘He tried the “guarantee” ques-
tion we rehearsed and he pulled the old “will you resign?” stunt
– but the rehearsal paid off because I took the moral high ground
each time.’
‘Brilliant!’ shrieked Lynn. ‘But do you still have a job?’
‘Absolutely,’ replied Steve. ‘And it’s the first time I’ve stood up to
Dave and left the meeting feeling better than when I went in.’
‘That’s terrific!’ said Lynn. ‘I’ll hear more about it tonight, before
our candlelit dinner. What time will you be home?’
‘By seven,’ came the certain reply. ‘See you then – and thanks,
‘For what?’ she asked.
‘For believing in me when I didn’t,’ came the surprisingly frank
‘My pleasure,’ said Lynn. ‘See you tonight, handsome.’
As Lynn hung up, her mobile indicated a new message:
Are you acting as if …?
‘As if what?’ asked Lynn out loud.
Steve is determined to succeed in overcoming his problem with
the Bulldog.
And he’s going about it the right way.
At one time, it would have been so easy for him to have let this
situation bring him down even further than it already has, causing
him to ‘burn out’.
He could have done nothing, let the pattern of destructive bullying
continue and found himself ill or driven out of his job.
Even now, he could choose to let his fears overpower and paralyse
him. There are still mornings when he’s afraid to get out of bed
and days when he has to work up the courage to make the lonely
pilgrimage from his car to the office door.
But Steve’s beginning to change. His courage is becoming bigger
than his fear. Steve is developing self-belief.
Thinking about the text messages, in combination with his discus-
sions with Lynn, has increased his self-awareness. This increased
understanding of himself has made him more aware of the heart
of the problem he has with Dave.
In turn, this has enabled him to draw up a more effective problem-
solving plan in order to deal with it.
Steve has been empowered to take appropriate action.
When it comes to success in any new venture, a reasonable degree
of self-belief is essential because what we believe about ourselves
and our abilities affects the possible outcome in any given situa-
tion. In this sense, we create our own destiny.
Our power to solve problems is limited only by the strength of our
belief that we can.
If we believe that we can, then we’re more likely to succeed. If we
believe that we can’t, then we’ll also probably be right too.
The power of the mind is that it tends towards creating what it
But self-belief has to be soundly based on preparation, performance
and physiology, otherwise it is merely a false sense of security.
Facing a challenge unprepared would be like walking into the
gladiatorial arena without having mastered the skills of hand-to-
hand combat; or going to sit an examination without having stud-
ied adequately; or attending an interview without having done
our homework and honed our interview technique.
And yet we’ve all done this at one time or another and then been
surprised when things don’t work out!
Steve’s preparation has suddenly made him aware, for the first
time, of the personal buttons Dave’s been pressing – the legacy
of his relationship with his critical bullying father and his eternal
striving to please him.
Steve has been behaving towards Dave AS IF he were his father.
This is the ‘hook’ that Dave has had in Steve and explains why he
was brought to the edge of despair. Dave’s bullying has been such a
powerful and destructive weapon because it’s touched this painful
raw nerve in Steve.
Equally important for Steve was the need to perform well on the
day of his meeting with Dave.
And in order to build his belief that he could handle it, Steve need-
ed to practise how he would play it.
This is why Lynn’s suggestion of role playing his forthcoming
showdown with Dave was so helpful. The idea scared Steve wit-
less at first but the experience proved worth its weight in gold on
this, his first day of reckoning with Dave.
Practice enables us to connect up what we KNOW we have to do
with the actual DOING of it.
This is because practice creates the unique mind–body connections
essential for executing successfully the specific behaviour we want
to develop.
For example, even though a musician has memorized the melo-
dies, notes and musical arrangements of a piece, he would only go
on stage to perform having practised them over and over again on
the instrument – in private or, better still, on a stage without the
audience present.
These vital mind–body connections are the equivalent of power-
ful confidence motorways along which we can travel easily, effort-
lessly, confidently and with self-belief.
This is true of any behaviour pattern we may wish to develop or
reinforce, such as behaving more confidently, playing a musical in-
strument, speaking in public or, in Steve’s situation, the performance
strategy for his forthcoming encounter with Dave.
In this way, the whole ‘performance’ becomes confident, natural,
effortless and, ultimately, much more powerful.
Role playing with Lynn allowed Steve the opportunity to ‘hear
and see’ his own performance in advance. In addition, it provided
the benefit of external input and opinion from Lynn, who has the
advantage of being objective and only having Steve’s best interests
at heart.
If Lynn had not come up with the idea of role playing, then practis-
ing in front of a mirror or using a camera to record the ‘rehearsal’
would have been effective alternatives that Steve could have used.
Preparation and practice are important in creating confident be-
haviour, but developing a healthy physiology is also vital.
And both Steve and Lynn are beginning to improve their physiol-
ogy by enhancing their physical health and fitness.
Lynn has started yoga classes and Steve is back playing five-a-side
football and going to the gym. In addition to being fitter, they are
eating more healthily and drinking less alcohol. She feels calmer
and less stressed and his mood has lifted.
Their general sense of physical and emotional well-being has been
given a huge boost and they both wish that they had started being
more active much sooner.
For Steve, bringing a healthier body to the preparation, practice
and performance situations has powerfully enhanced the learning
process itself and ultimately the quality of the confident behaviour
and self-belief he has created.
This is because it helps to build the large and robust confidence
motorways between mind and body, necessary for the confident
behaviour to become ‘hard wired’.
Working with an unfit body and eating unhealthily is akin to en-
tering a standard saloon car in the Monaco Grand Prix, filling it
with low-grade fuel and then expecting it to perform well and
have a real chance of winning.
The confidence spiral
But Steve is also beginning to use his body language to enhance
his confidence and self-belief in another effective way – by acting
as if he feels confident.
This involves him using good body language to create a state of
confidence and self-belief by changing things like his facial expres-
sion, breathing, posture, stance and movement to those associated
with confident behaviour.
He walks into the meeting with Dave with his shoulders back and
smiles as he confidently and firmly shakes his hand. He speaks
clearly and loudly enough, while keeping good eye contact.
This behaviour sends powerful ‘confident messages’ to his brain
through the confidence motorways he’s been building during role
The more he acts as if he is confident, the more confidence he will
genuinely begin to experience.
Steve is experiencing the powerful connections between:
body and mind
physiology and feelings
behaving confidently and feeling confident
acting as if he’s confident and experiencing a state of confidence
This is the power of the mind–body connection – to create con-
fidence motorways between the way we behave and the way we
think and feel.
Acting as if we are confident puts us in a more confident state.
When we feel more confident we behave in a more confident man-
ner and, as we repeat this cycle, we send our confidence on an
upward spiral.

feeling confident
behaving confidently
feeling confident
behaving confidently
feeling confident

That evening
As good as his word, Steve was in the flat at 6.45, carrying a large
bouquet of flowers.
‘These are magnificent,’ gasped Lynn.
‘If only they were for you,’ Steve teased, putting them behind his
back. ‘Happy Valentine’s Day!’
With Nicky at his gran’s house for the night, there was nobody to
interrupt their lengthy embrace.
‘I just wish I didn’t have that interview tomorrow to put me off my
food tonight,’ said Lynn.
‘We’ll rehearse it over dinner,’ suggested Steve.
‘How romantic!’ replied Lynn.
‘Well, you have to be positive,’ said Steve. ‘You have to act as if
the job’s got your name written on it.’
‘Act as if …?’ asked Lynn.
‘Sure, if you’re uncertain, just act as if you were confident,’ re-
plied Steve.
‘I got a text with these words this afternoon,’ said Lynn.
‘Ah, the Phantom of the Soap Opera,’ suggested Steve.
Twenty minutes later, Lynn was in her black dress and standing in
front of the full-length mirror in the bedroom.
‘I can just see a horrible bump where my tummy used to be,’ she
groaned, holding her hand on her stomach.
Steve stood behind her and put his arms round her, looking at
them both in the mirror.
His paunch had reduced and the double chin was back to a single.
His regular five-a-side football nights were also now supplement-
ed by a once-a-week trip to the gym.
‘I can just see an incredibly attractive woman with a great per-
sonality, a bundle load of compassion who’s a terrific wife and
mother – whom I love to bits,’ he said, squeezing her tight.
They were the kind of words that, until recently, she had expected
never to hear from him again.

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