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A World of Possibility

When I started my sales career over 25 years ago, I worked for a small company selling telephone answering equipment. Hard to believe it but in those days I had to explain to prospects what the equipment was for and why they might want to use it.

The company I worked for got business in several different ways. First each of the 4 sales people handled incoming calls and also made calls to people he/she thought could use the equipment. The company advertised so sometimes people called in to inquire about the products we offered. Finally the manufacturers of the equipment sent the company names of people (leads) who called the manufacturer because they were interested in the equipment.

No one particularly liked making cold calls so if we could get an incoming call we took it hoping it was a potential customer. Cold calling was part of the job however so I learned to do it in a way that made it a game. One of the other sales people really hated making the calls so he very rarely made any.

Instead of calling, this fellow would complain to whoever was available that the company didn't provide good leads, that the company should advertise more so people would know what the equipment was, and that the company should move its location to a high traffic mall so we would get walk in traffic. (We were located in a building that housed the mattress factory of the parents of the owner!)

Needless to say he didn't make many sales but it always struck me that he truly believed the problem was with the company not with himself.

Jack Canfield in his book "The Success Principles" says, "If you want to be successful, you have to take 100% responsibility for everything that you experience in your life. This includes the level of your achievements, the results you produce, the quality of your relationships, the state of your health and physical fitness, your income, your debts, your feelings-everything!"

The fellow may have been right about the company and its support (or lack of support) of sales but he couldn't change that. It didn't help any of us that he continually complained about the leads, location, and lack of advertising. He needed to take responsibility for his own sales process and begin to think about possibilities not problems.

Instead the focus on the problems put him in a negative mood so that he was somewhat snide when he talked to potential customers. Needless to say they rarely bought from him. His negative mood made him totally unattractive to the rest of us. I knew that I couldn't talk with him too often or I would also get caught up in his negativity.

My colleague's conversation is what Ben Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander call "downward spiral talk". They say in the book "The Art of Possibility", "Focusing on the abstraction of scarcity, downward spiral talk creates an unassailable story about the limits to what is possible and tells us compellingly how things are going from bad to worse."

Obviously it would be good to stop that kind of talk-if you can. This can be difficult especially if you are paid to find the problems with something. Lawyers look for holes in the other person's case, engineers look for problems to solve, and accountants often look for ways the numbers don't work.

There is energy in finding what is wrong with something. The key is to use that energy even if the use is to write a report or argue a case. My colleague needed to take the energy of his negativity and use that energy to find innovative ways to make the job interesting. That is what I had done when I made a game of it. Getting stuck in the negativity makes you a victim of circumstances rather than being 100% responsible for your own results.

Take Action:

1. Where are you being negative? Are you aware of a downward spiral talk in your work? How can you use the energy of the talk in a different way?

2. Read "The Art of Possibility" by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander and "The Success Principles" by Jack Canfield.

3. Another perspective on the issue of negativity: Julie Norem's The Positive Power of Negative Thinking: Using Defensive Pessimism to Harness Anxiety and Perform at Your Peak. Take a look at this book and website:

4. David Caruso and Peter Solovay in their book The Emotionally Intelligent Manager give these four key emotional skills:

a. Identifying Emotion: Emotions contain critical information and data.

b. Using Emotion: Different emotions help our thinking in different ways.

c. Understanding Emotion: Emotions follow a logical pattern, if you know how to look at them.

d. Managing Emotion: You cannot be effective without the wisdom of emotions.

How might these skills help you with downward spiral talk?

Alvah Parker is a Business and Career Coach as well as publisher of Parker's Points, an email tip list and Road to Success, an ezine. Parker's Value Program© enables her clients to find their own way to work that is more fulfilling and profitable. Her clients are managers, business owners, sole practioners, attorneys and people in transition. Alvah is found on the web at She may also be reached at 781-598-0388.

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