Build Self-Confidence using MAIT – Step 1: Mitigate the Subjective Response

Approaching situations with self-confidence is key for learning from past experiences. The learning and growth become part of us and we become wiser and better at what we do, on the personal and professional levels.

You can build self-confidence by learning how to deal with situations confidently and make good conclusions about what past experiences mean. Unfortunately sometimes we get emotional and we make the wrong assumptions about what happened, and make the wrong conclusions. This results in learning wrong habits and techniques and worsening our performance instead of improving it, which leads to loss of confidence in self.

Some are self-confident, and are really good at drawing sound value adding conclusions consistently and objectively.
What do they do different? Is there a methodology to making right and useful conclusions in a confident and positive manner?

I follow a four step approach I call it MAIT to help me build confidence in my conclusions and decisions. This has worked very well for me, and I would like to share my experiences with you. In turn, please do share your approach, and your thoughts on this approach. Here is MAIT:

Step 1: Mitigate the subjective response
Step 2: Articulate true statements
Step 3: Identify potential for value creation
Step 4: Take positive action

While the examples here are from a business context they can easily be a personal example. Where that the client is any acquaintance and you are the other party and you will see that this is as applicable in personal life as it is in business.

What makes this more important is that lessons learned is a continuous process throughout the project, not something to be done at the end of a project. So its quality will affect the outcomes of the project, future projects, and the organizational and personal performance of involved stakeholders.

There are many challenges in the way of learning from lessons learned. At the most fundamental level, a key challenge is how we articulate conclusions related to lessons learned.

For example: “Ahmed is not cooperative.” or “Bob is not competent,” or “Work is progressing too slowly,” etc. These are statements made. How can we ensure that these conclusions are productive, and have the potential of improving performance?

This article covers step one and later articles will cover the three other steps. Please share with me your thoughts and experiences on how you deal with lessons learned.

What does mitigating the subjective response (step 1) mean? We see things from a convenient perspective that does not challenge our view of the world. For example, if Amy says to Leann “you need to be more open in your communication,” and Leann considers herself proficient in communication, then that statement will hurt her ego. The convenient response for Leann would be “Amy does not know what she is talking about. She is too opinionated. She is too egotistical. She thinks she is the only one who knows how to communicate when in fact all she knows about communication is stuff she read from books.” Then Leann might go on bringing evidence that the statements Amy made are untrue. When we look at Amy’s side we find these subjective statements: “Leann was shocked with how bad her communication skills are she cannot take my candid feedback, so she is blaming me for it and prefers to think that she is doing well and I do not know my job. I am an expert and I know what I am doing.” So the lesson learned from Leann’s perspective would be: “Never listen to Amy’s opinion again, she has something against me.” Amy’s lesson learned might be: “Leann cannot take criticism. She is too arrogant.” These lessons learned on both sides are suspect; they are built on subjective assessments made by ego and cannot be proven.

So how do we fix this?

No easy way to do that without first dealing with the cause of the problem.

First both sides need to observe emotions and ego talk that are arising in them due to this intervention. For example, Leann needs to acknowledge what emotions these statements are causing for her, and how these emotions are playing a role in the statements she is making. So if Leann recognizes that she is angry at Amy saying that she needs to improve her communication skills, this is a good place to start. Also, if Amy acknowledges that her pride in her x years of experience are making her resent Leann’s reaction to her feedback, this is a good place to start. The difficult thing is for both parties to be willing to go beyond the emotions and make more objective factual statements about what happened.

Even if Leann and Amy cannot make factual statements because they are too upset about the situation, just acknowledging the emotional part of this is sufficient at this stage. This acknowledgment is not easy. We are taught that as professionals we must put emotions aside and be objective. This is an impossibility. Instead professionals need to acknowledge the emotions and acknowledge how emotions are affecting their statements.

Another example on this is this statement: “The consultant is wrong.” This is an emotional statement. Unless there is clear valid evidence to the fact that the consultant is totally wrong. In reality, the consultant cannot be totally wrong as she also cannot be totally right. So in reality, emotions for the client are making him dismiss the consultant’s opinion. Furthermore the client might accept parts of what the consultant is saying and dismiss other parts.

Once we acknowledge that emotions sometimes might cloud our judgment we will be willing to listen more carefully to what others are saying, and also seek others’ opinions.

So step 1 in lessons learned is acknowledging how emotions affect our perception of what happened and the conclusions we make. Once we acknowledge this we can listen to other opinions and be more observant of our own objectivity and subjectivity levels.

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