Helping People (or You) Through Adversity!

Posted on March 12, 2018 by mmaloney

Adversity is something that every single one of us will inevitably face in our lives. If you are in business, and sales (let’s be honest we are all in sales in some way!) you will likely face it regularly. How people respond to adversity can be the make or break it for some. Athletes who respond better to adversity are more likely to win the championship. Sales professionals who respond with a more positive strategy, are more likely to be in the top 10% of achievers. People who respond to adversity as a temporary set back and not a failure are more likely to be leading the team, department or company.

As we get older, our emotional intelligence gets stronger, and we tend to develop better skills for coping with challenges. We start to identify when things aren’t the end of the world. Not like when you were 8 years old and lost a game and you started to cry. At 25, most of us can hold back those tears when we lose! Like emotional intelligence, coping strategies for dealing with adversity can be taught. They can be developed. Gone are the days of saying “suck it up” or “just deal with it”. That is simply not how most people are looking to be “led” anymore. Instead, we need to step back and help people grow and realize that resiliency is a skill that leaders need to help develop. Here are some of my strategies for helping people “build up the backbone” to face the challenges of life, work and sport with their head held high!

Plan Positive Messaging in Advance

I had a new sales person getting ready to head out the other day about to do some cold calling on businesses. This can be scary! She knew what she was going to say. She was trained and armed with everything she needed. I asked; “what are you going to do when someone tells you “no”?” She looked at me and said nothing. This led me to explaining this principle to her… you need to have a plan of what you are going to say in advance when you face adversity… not to OTHERS but to YOURSELF! Option A is that you can tell yourself “I suck”. If you do this, how likely to continue and persevere will you actually be? Option B is to tell yourself something else, something that will allow you to not internalize the rejection and keep going. It could be a positive affirmation, it could even be something that directly relates to what you are doing. When I was new to sales and essentially handing out flyers on the streets of Toronto, I faced a lot of rejection, but I also faced a lot of just mean and rude people. What did I tell myself every time someone told me to “F$*# off”? I said in my head “I don’t want them as a member, they would be awful anyway”. Had a little chuckle to myself and moved on to the next person. Coming up with positive self-talk in the heat of the moment is simply not realistic. Your mind is in fight or flight mode… it is not able to logically and rationally come up with a positive thought on the spot, for a lot of people. With people who are performing a task that is new to them or a task they have previously been unsuccessful at, you need to remember your goal is to build self-efficacy. People will make decisions on their experiences as they happen. They will judge themselves, compare themselves and tell themselves. So set them up for judgement success by setting the tone for the fact perfection is not the expectation, and help them have a plan for when non-perfection (what they can expect) happens

Create a “Rebound Strategy”

With adversity typically comes the feeling of a loss of control or chaos. Where the world is spinning and you don’t know how to stop it. The vortex keeps trying to pull you downward and you just can’t make it stop. An analogy someone once told me was imagine you are at the bottom of a sand pit trying to get out. With every step and every pull to try and climb out you are just pulling more sand on you. Have you ever had that feeling? This is where people who don’t have resiliency strategies will give up. This is where most people let adversity win. This is where you need to have a strategy for slowing down the vortex. What is your rebound strategy? To get your head back into focus and in the game? This is going to be different for everyone. However, mine is to read. I buy the latest business or leadership book and I start reading. Amazingly when I start to read, new ideas start to come, new solutions to whatever I was struggling with. Someone else’s perspective usually helps me find my own perspective on whatever I am facing. It can be a podcast, a radio show, a book, even a coach. You need to have someone/ something that helps you slow the brain and refocus on whatever is in front of you. New information will allow you to start to move out of the vortex and back onto solid ground. It needs to be enough distraction to get you out of the vortex… but not so much distraction to stop you from moving forward (ie: TV, wasted time, hours watching cat videos).

Focus on the “Controllables”

Focusing on the “controllables” is one of the greatest tools we can teach people. In sport, we can’t control what the other team does. What we can control is what we execute, how we defend what the other team does, and the mindset we stay in during the game. These things are all within our control. The same goes for life. We spend too much time trying to control the things that are out of our control. It wastes so much energy because you are trying to impact the thoughts of other people, or the decisions others make. It focuses you on more negatives that seem like there is no solution in sight. People with high resilience are empathetic of others, but not controlled by the actions of others. You need to teach people what they can control, what they can’t control and how to manage those things. You can control your actions. You can control your behaviours. You can control the attitude you have during a task. You can control the skills you try and develop and impact.

Why are you trying to control the controllables? To impact your mindset! When you focus on the controllables you are less likely to get frustrated as regularly. You are more likely to find solutions and you will be able to persevere through challenges for longer. If you let everything get you down… you are not going to make it through! When you control what you can and find wins in that, you are going to celebrate more often!

Take these three tips and help create more adversity champions and happy teams!



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