For his classic book Assumptions about Human Nature, social psychologist Lawrence Wrightsman conducted extensive research into how we judge human nature and the social world. Other commentators on his research have argued that the ‘self-accepting’ (higher self-esteem) person tends to view the world as a friendlier place than does the self-rejecting person (lower self-esteem). In this post we consider seven attitudes about human nature:
- Agree or disagree? People are basically honest and trustworthy.
- Agree or disagree? People are basically altruistic and try to help others.
- Agree or disagree? People have a lot of control over their lives.
- Agree or disagree? People have a good idea of their strengths and weaknesses.
- Agree or disagree? Most people will speak out for what they believe in.
- Agree or disagree? You can’t accurately describe a person in a few words (that is, people are simple to understand)
- Agree or disagree? People’s reactions differ from situation to situation (people are unpredictable)
Black-and-white thinking indicates a degree of cognitive inflexibility and has been implicated in emotional issues (disturbance). Challenging this kind of binary thought is a key principle in Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and in life coaching based on the CBT model. One of the techniques is to explore exceptions to the ‘rule’.
Begin by asking the following questions:
- Do your responses (to the 7 attitudes) make for a safe and friendly world or an unsafe and hostile one?
- How do these attitudes shape your social interactions, especially in relation to confidence building?
- Which of these attitudes are most likely to act as an obstruction to your personal development and goals?
Consider each attitude in turn and explore exceptions to the attitude, such as, ‘People have a lot of control over their lives’. Consider the ways however small where you have control over your life. Also considering ‘People have a good idea of their strengths and weaknesses’. What are your strengths? Continue through the seven attitudes to consider exceptions to all attitudes that have a less favourable view of human nature. Each time consider how each attitude impacts on your self-acceptance (esteem).
In my coaching practice, I take a solution-focused approach which means that we focus on strengths and opportunities. As a client you will also look at your values, the principles and ideals you stand for in life. One of the challenges is to consider how attitudes and actions support your values and in turn support your goals. In confidence coaching (and in my book Unlock Your Confidence) a key theme is to consider how attitudes impact on confidence and esteem.
In solution focused coaching there is a maxim: the viewing influences the doing, and vice versa. This means that how we view ourselves, how we view the world and how we view other people, will influence what we do with our lives, our actions. The literally meaning of ‘attitude’ is ‘fit and ready for action’. Having the courage to take action is at the root of confidence.
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About the author
Dr Gary Wood is a social psychologist and life coach. He is based in Birmingham and Edinburgh where he runs his own training and coaching practice and research consultancy. He is author of Unlock Your Confidence which is based on his confidence-building workshops. Contact Gary to see how his solution focused coaching approach would benefit you or your organization.
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