Does this scenario sound familiar?
You make a mistake. It may be small or large, but it really doesn’t matter. You, figuratively, beat yourself up. You hear yourself saying, “You idiot! You are never going to amount to anything!”
Head’s up, your inner Prosecuting Attorney has arrived. A Prosecuting Attorney’s job is to find fault and place blame. So here are some arguments the Prosecuting Attorney may throw your way. Notice that all of these statements are punitive, finding only fault.
- “You should have planned better.”
- “How could you have done that?”
- “How could you have said that?”
- “What were you thinking?”
- “You will never get ahead if you keep doing stupid stuff like this.”
Now, let’s pretend you also possess the skills of a seasoned Defense Attorney. A Defense Attorney’s job is to advocate for the accused, raise questions, and create an opening for a different perspective. So here’s some language a Defense Attorney may throw your way. Notice that these statements are curious in nature, looking for options other than blame.
- “This project took way longer than I thought it would. Next time I’m going to start earlier. Hopefully, that will alleviate the stress I’m feeling now.”
- “I thought I understood the process, but I didn’t. Who can I check with next time to ensure I’m on the right track?”
- “I wonder if Steve might have misinterpreted my intention. I better check in with him.”
- “I thought I understood the project’s scope, but clearly, some pieces were missing. How can I more thoroughly understand the scope before starting next time?”
- “It’s possible that I am not ready for another big project right now. What learning or understanding do I need? I want to use this experience to help build knowledge and resilience, so I’m ready for the next big project.”
From my perspective, I’d much prefer to spend my time with my inner Defense Attorney. But unfortunately, most of us spend our time hanging out with our inner Prosecuting Attorney, and the costs can be high.
When I feel prosecuted, my shoulders ache, my stomach hurts, and my creativity shuts down. When I feel defended, I am more relaxed and compassionate, and my mind is open to possibilities.
What can you do to recognize when your inner Prosecuting Attorney shows up? How do you allow your inner Defense Attorney to offer a different perspective?
Cindy Jobs, PCAC, ACC
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