The one time in your life when pigeon crap helps

When you try to do something different one thing’s for certain: You are going to upset people.

Better get used to that.

The trouble arises because we are creatures of habit. We like our life to be just so, even if we’re not entirely happy about the way things are. So if a work colleague, friend or family member says: “To hell with the way things are, I have been talking about doing [something] for ages and now I’m going to go and bloody well do it”… and then they actually do it, well that upsets the apple cart.

How do you deal with your fear that you will make someone else angry. Angry because, for example, you are:

  • giving up a job to pursue a dream,
  • competing with them for a promotion,
  • quitting your regular social event in order to do something else like retrain or pursue a new interest.

The stress of dealing with someone’s angry glare or huffing and puffing puts many off doing anything new. It becomes the difference between talking and doing.

Pigeon poop is one way to deal with it.

It’s a surprisingly simple and effective way to control how upset other people make you. And here’s how it works: Instead of taking their anger personally, tell yourself that the real reason they just are about to go thermo is because they slept badly, lost their train ticket, their mom let them watch too much TV or their new suit got splatted by a pigeon just as they left for  work.But it ain’t you and it ain’t personal.

This re-appraisal technique is pretty basic stuff for Cognitive Behavioural Therapists . What’s interesting is some fresh research from Stanford Univeristy which shows the value of de-personalising the meltdown in advance.

Conventional thinking has it that “reappraisal” is a post-event activity. In other words once someone had got angry and upset then you could reflect upon that episode later and by telling yourself it was the pigeon poop – not you – that had made them angry you would get over your feelings much faster.

However, new research from Stanford University suggests that the real trick is to reappraise IN ADVANCE. If you anticipate that someone will go volcanic then tell yourself in advance that this will be for a non-personal reason – such as pigeon poop – then you will be be barely disturbed by their reaction.

This is significant. The thinking used to be that you had to experience the negative emotion when someone got mad at you. It was a necessary paret of the process that preceded reappraisal. The new research suggests that by anticipating the angry episode and preparing for it you can skip the need to even feel upset in the first place.

Early tests show that by de-personalising the huffing and puffing a priori the whole thing will just wash over you.

Which means you can save your energy for doing – not fretting.