Focus on the Facts of a Situation

By Rhiannon Jones, LEIC

Rhiannon Jones

I am a self-proclaimed overthinker; if there’s a way to ruminate on something, I’m going to do it. Recently, for Leadership Academy, I started reading “Reality-Based Leadership” by Cy Wakeman. I have been pleasantly surprised by this book and even a few chapters in, have found some valuable lessons. The biggest takeaway has been related to my over-thinking. In the book, Wakeman notes that stress is not caused by what happens to us, but rather by the stories we tell ourselves about it. In a chain of events, the one thing that we can control is the way we think about it. Wakeman notes that in the absence of the whole picture, we tell ourselves stories or make assumptions about what has happened, none of which are based in fact; we overthink it. Instead, we should focus on the facts of the situation, what we know to be true, not what we have manufactured to fill in gaps. As Wakeman points out, information that is missing does not have any emotion attached to it until we start adding our version of reality; this leads to stress, anger, fear, anxiety, and a host of other emotions that only serve to complicate the matter and skew our perception to fit our preconceived notions.

Wakeman outlines a series of questions that allow us to respond to the facts, not the story that we have used to supplement the situation:

  1. What do I believe in this moment?
  2. What do I know for sure? (What are the facts)
  3. Who am I as a manager or as an employee when I believe this story?
  4. Without this story, what would I do to help?
  5. How can I help?
  6. What is the very next thing I can do to add value right now?

These questions allow us to parse what we actually know about a situation and what we are adding to it ourselves and then evaluate what really matters to the outcome. Reading Wakeman’s book has allowed me to reflect on how often I insert emotion into a situation that would not have it otherwise. This is easy to do without realizing the impact it has on how we approach a situation. But this usually does not lead to productive outcomes. Wakeman also notes that our ego is intrinsically linked to the emotions we try to add to a situation; putting our ego aside is essential to reaching the best, and most professional, outcome.