MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™) is what I coach; AMS is short for Assumption, Manipulation, Self-fulfilling prophesy and is part of your MAP.
I was a kid when I first identified this behavior (yeah, an overly analytical kid) and figured out that it really messed up our family relationships. I didn’t name it for another ten years, but did spend that decade working to eliminate it in myself (talk about deeply rooted behavior) and telling others about it.
Through purely anecdotal research I found that AMS is common and unconscious and that the actions are done serially and always in order. In general, the scenario works like this:
- Assumption: We think about something we’re going to do or tell someone and decide what the outcome will be.
- Manipulation: Then we do it or say it in a such a way as to elicit the response we expected.
- Self-fulfilling prophesy: This brings us full circle to back to the original assumption and we then say to ourselves, “See, I knew this would happen if I did/said [whatever].”
The astute reader (that’s you) knows that that this can be a good thing. After all, think about how much you can accomplish; the objections you can overcome; the minds you can change to flow in synch with your own, and many people do use it this way (think the power of positive thinking, actualization, etc.).
But here’s the kicker (you knew there’d be a kicker, right?):
AMS is also at the bottom of most miscommunications and misunderstandings, including biz problems, dysfunctional relationships, divorces and even war.
A: I bet my boss won’t approve my going to the seminar.
M: “I know that the training budget is down and that you might not think this is the best seminar for the money, but I’d really like to go.”
S: I knew s/he wouldn’t let me go.
Sure, this is a very obvious example, but once you start looking you’ll see all the subtle ways you set yourself up for negative results. Worse, when you’re a manager you may set up your people to fail instead of succeed.
From little things to damaging morale on entire projects, bad AMS often rears it’s ugly head. Negative spin can undercut people’s belief in their ability to finish a project on time:
- “I know it’s a really tough schedule and difficult project and we’re short some of the needed skills, but it’s supposed to be done and we’ll have to try.”
Whereas positive spin can inspire:
- “The project and schedule are challenging, but I have no doubts that working together we can finish it on time and in budget, plus we’ll all get to learn some new skills in the process.
The solution to bad AMS is simple, but implementing it takes longer (longer being a purely subjective amount of time—days to decades).
The trick to turning bad AMS to good is awareness—that’s always how you move through the four-level (unconscious incompetence -> conscious incompetence -> conscious competence -> unconscious competence) process of behavioral (or any kind) of learning/change.
Here’s what to do:
- Listen to yourself to see what spin you’re putting on your words.
- If it’s positive, pat your self on the back.
- If it’s neutral, tweak it a bit.
- If it’s negative, STOP, say that’s not what you meant and rephrase it with enough enthusiasm to convince your listeners. People’s mental delete function is like your computer, just because it’s deleted doesn’t mean it’s gone. So you have to take the time to really overwrite the negative and keep reinforcing the positive without sounding desperate, insincere or phony.
Keep monitoring yourself. You’ll find that after having to do step four a few times, your awareness not only skyrockets, it kicks in earlier and earlier. The end result is your thinking will actually change and you negative AMS will happen less and less.
Stay tuned. Tomorrow we’ll go through the details of the four-level process.