The ABC Technique

Video Transcript

Learn how to think more optimistically when you experience a difficult or stressful situation

How well do you deal with setbacks at work? Do you let them throw you off course, and affect the rest of your day? Or are you the type of person who deals with adversity constructively?

Research shows that people who are optimists handle setbacks more effectively than those who are pessimists. This can affect how successful they are in life.

Fortunately, you CAN learn to be more optimistic. One way to do this is by using Dr Martin Seligman's ABC Technique.

ABC stands for Adversity, Beliefs and Consequences.

In short, we first encounter adversity. How we think about this creates beliefs. These beliefs then influence what we do next, so they become consequences.

For example, imagine your boss gave you some negative feedback on a presentation you made to the board. This is adversity. If you're pessimistic, you might then think you're no good at your job. This is a belief. You then avoid giving presentations, which affects your career progression. This is a consequence.

The key point happens between A and B.

When you encounter adversity, how you explain it to yourself has a direct impact on your mindset and on your relationships. Dr Seligman calls this your explanatory style. He says this heavily influences whether you're optimistic or pessimistic.

There are several steps you can take if you want to develop a more positive explanatory style.

First, pay attention to your inner dialog by writing down your thoughts whenever you encounter a stressful or negative situation. Describe what happened, what beliefs you had during and after the adverse experience, and the consequences of this.

After you've noted down several situations, look at what you've written. What patterns do you see here? What are the consequences of your negative thinking? 

You can then think about how to manage your negative ABC patterns.

One technique you can use is distraction. For instance, try wearing a rubber band around your wrist. Whenever you go through a stressful situation, and you catch yourself having negative thoughts, snap it against your skin. The tiny sting will remind you to step out of the cycle of negative thinking.

Now you can challenge your negative beliefs by intentionally looking for the positives in your situation. For example, you could focus on what you learned, so that you can deal with similar situations better next time.

To find out more about the ABC Technique, and how to use it to be more optimistic, see the article that accompanies this video.

Rate this resource

Comments (2)
  • Over a month ago Michele wrote
    Hello omanfareed,

    Lack of appreciation for great results is not motivating for you or your team. Hold on to your belief that do are doing great work. Your belief in yourself and your efforts will help to sustain you and keep your positive energy.

    Michele
    Mind Tools Team
  • Over a month ago omanfareed wrote
    nice tip and i have it in my new job where the leaders are not appreciating what we do even the results are great. They focus on negative things all the time which drain our energy badly