“The Feeling Good Handbook” by David D. Burns, M.D. describes a type of treatment for depression called cognitive behavioral therapy. The word “cognition” means “thought” and this book is a common sense look at changing the way people think and thus changing their behavior.

In “The Feeling Good Handbook” Dr. Burns lists “The Ten Forms of Twisted Thinking” that occur when people are depressed. These ten forms also exist when people are not depressed and they exist within many, many sales professionals. If you use any of these twisted forms (and most of us do in one way or another) it will negatively impact your sales. I am listing all 10 so that you can judge for yourself. The following list of “Twisted Thinking” is paraphrased from “The Feeling Good Handbook” by David D. Burns, M.D.

1. All-or-nothing thinking

Everything is black or white. If a situation falls short of perfect, then it’s a total failure. An example of all-or-nothing thinking is a dieter who has one cookie and then proceeds to eat the entire bag since they’ve already blown their diet. Another example would be if you do not have time to make 100 dials/day you then make no dials at all.

2. Overgeneralization

Seeing a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat. If you overgeneralize you use words such as “always” or “never.” For example, “Cold calling never works for me.” “Prospects always reject me.”

3. Mental filter

Picking out a single negative detail and dwelling on it to the exclusion of everything else. An example: You receive many compliments from your associates about your presentation. If, however, you receive even one mildly critical comment you obsess about it and forget about all of the positive comments.

4. Discounting the positive

You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count.” If you do a good job, you may tell yourself that it wasn’t good enough or that anyone could have done as well.

5. Jumping to conclusions

You interpret things negatively when there are no facts to support your conclusion. There are two categories here:

Mind reading: You conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you with no evidence to back that up. For example, your prospect says they cannot speak with you because they are busy and you think, “They are not interested.”

Fortune telling: You predict that things will turn out badly. Before a prospecting call you tell yourself, “They’re not interested” or “They’ll probably say ‘no.’”

6. Magnification

You exaggerate the importance of your (or your company’s) problems and shortcomings. You also minimize the importance of your (or your company’s) desirable qualities.

7. Emotional reasoning

You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are. “I am uncomfortable making cold calls” therefore “People do not like cold calls” therefore “Cold calling does not work.”

8. “Should” statements

You tell yourself that things should be the way you hoped or wanted them to be. “I should have made that sale.” “Musts,” “ought to’s” and “have to’s” are similar offenders. Should statements that are directed against yourself lead to guilt and frustration. Should statements that are directed against other people, for example, “My prospect should call me back” also lead to anger and frustration. 

9. Labeling

Labeling is an extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking. You attach a negative label to yourself or to others. Example: You make a mistake and then say to yourself, “I’m a loser.” Labeling is quite irrational because you are not the same as what you do. 

You may also label others. When a prospect does not respond as you had hoped you may tell yourself, “He’s a jerk.” Then you feel that the problem is with that person’s character instead of with their thinking or behavior. This makes you feel hostile and leaves little room for constructive communication.

10. Personalization and blame

You hold yourself personally responsible for an event that isn’t entirely under your control. An appointment with a new prospect is cancelled because that prospect has left the company. You think, “If only I was better at prospecting, this wouldn’t happen.”

Some people do the opposite. They blame other people or their circumstances for their problems. Blame doesn’t usually work very well.

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