Service mindset: You must replace ANTs with APTs

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'Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, either way, you’re probably right.’

I don’t know where I first heard this, but I do know it’s right. My background was in sales and that helped me learn first-hand that my knowledge and skill were important, but they were not the only things that determined my success. My attitude and self-belief made a big difference too. You’ll also probably know that in sport the attitude and belief of the sportsperson is a critical part of their success.

Well it’s just the same in service. If you really want to be great at doing it, and believe you can, then you’re well on your way to doing it. But if you don’t care, or think it’s something you can’t do, then you’ll have a major obstacle to being successful.

This is because of the way the brain works. The subconscious part of your brain (the most powerful part) tries to make happen whatever you think about in your conscious brain. That’s why optimists generally have more positive outcomes and pessimists more negative ones (For example in 1986 psychologists found that insurance agents with an optimistic outlook sold 37% more insurance than the pessimists. More recently, research by Shawn Achor of Harvard Business School shows that optimists live longer, have less illness, are more successful in their jobs, earn more and have longer and more rewarding personal relationships.) It’s all to do with the different ways optimists and pessimists brains work and how they think. They often see the same things very differently.

For example, consider the well-used question of whether a glass is half full or half empty? It all depends on your perspective. A pessimist will tend to focus on what is not there and see a half empty glass. An optimist will tend to focus on what is there and see a half full glass. What’s in the glass is exactly the same for both people but the effect of these two perspectives will be different. The pessimist could feel disappointed that half has already gone. The optimist could feel pleased there is still half to enjoy.

Another example is when thinking about the past. Pessimists tend to focus on the things they wish hadn’t happened or that they wish they had done differently. This can create feelings of disappointment and/or regret. But optimists prefer to focus on the things they are pleased happened or that they did well. This generally promotes feelings of satisfaction and/or pride.

The same differences occur when thinking about the future. Pessimists tend to think about what they don’t want to happen, which can cause worry and stress. Optimists think about what they do want to happen, which can create excitement and anticipation.

I like to call the pessimists perspective like having a brain full of ANTs - Awful Negative Thoughts. Yet optimists try to fill their brains with APTs - Always Positive Thoughts.

The good news is that you can choose what you think about and how you think about it. ANTs or APTs, it’s up to you. Shawn Achor calls it the ‘lens’ through which we choose to see the world. The bad news is that it can be difficult for someone who is used to having a negative perspective to change into someone with a positive one. It becomes a habit that’s hard to change. But it can be done, and I believe it’s crucial for success in service. Customers don’t like being around persistently negative people. Nor do colleagues who have a positive outlook on life.

So if you want to be a service star, make sure you choose the right thoughts. Don’t allow yourself to think about what you don’t want to happen, make yourself think about what you do want to happen. It sounds simple, but it really makes a difference.  As I’ve already explained, your subconscious mind focuses on what your conscious mind thinks about and then influences you to take actions that are likely to make it come true. So by thinking about what you don’t want to happen, you are actually making it more likely that it will happen. But if instead you think about what you do want to happen the same thing happens, your subconscious mind tries to work out how to make that happen and then influences you to take the actions that are most likely to make it so.

So by thinking about what you want you’re making it more likely to happen......MUCH MORE LIKELY!

Finally, don’t worry if you don’t have the answer to the question, ‘But how will you make that happen?’ at the time you decide that it’s something you want to happen. “I don’t yet know, but the answer will come to me” is a perfectly acceptable way to deal with that question. That’s because the answer most probably will come to you because your subconscious will go to work to find the answer you need and then it will suddenly pop into your conscious, often when you least expect it. Like the sudden idea I had to write this article. That’s the way it works. It’s worked for me (many times) and it can work for you too.

About Chris Daffy

Chris Daffy

Chris Daffy is one of the UK’s best-known customer service fanatics. He is a Companion of the Institute of Customer Service and founder of The Academy of Service Excellence. His experience and expertise has taken him all over the world as a consultant and conference speaker and enabled him to work with organisations as varied as Airbus, Air Products, AXA, BAE Systems, Brenntag, BT, DLA Piper, Dorchester Group, ING Group, JCB, Jewson, Microsoft, Pizza Express, Toyota, Watches of Switzerland and Xerox.

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