• Recognise the words, for example, ‘There’s nothing I can do.’, ‘I’ve tried that already.’, ‘There’s no point.’, or ‘It’s out of my control.’ All words suggest learned helplessness.

 

  • The flipside of learned helplessness is a concept Seligman labelled ‘learned optimism’, which involves challenging and reframing negative thoughts.

 

  • Resilience journalling helps identify negative thinking patterns and behaviour and offers a reset opportunity.

 

  • Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, encourages us to look at a situation and identify what we can control or influence and what we cannot.

 

  • When dealing with a problem born out of negative experiences, we may need to articulate it for change to happen.   Conversations that start with ‘It might seem challenging; however, I can overcome this problem.’ are an excellent way to open communication with others holding themselves back.

 

  • Don’t do someone’s job for them; instead, provide resources and tools and be willing to help break down barriers if they say they feel stuck.   Show others what challenges might be and guide them to overcome them.   Sometimes, all you need to do is to say, ‘You can do this.’  One success is a step forward to negating past negative experiences, and your support for empowerment, rather than taking over, will help them to rise above helplessness.

 

  • Be solution-focused and fuel opportunities to focus on what might work.  Ask questions that connect you with root problems and new ideas to solve them.  When working with others, don’t come to the table with answers that will reinforce their helplessness but with questions to reinforce their ownership.   Let others find the answer by asking the right questions.  Helping to re-energize their critical-thinking skills is a win-win for all.

 

  • Be realistically optimistic.  Seligman examined optimists and pessimists and wrote, ‘Optimistic people tend to interpret troubles as transient, controllable, and specific to one situation. Pessimistic people, in contrast, believe that their troubles last forever, undermine everything they do and are uncontrollable.’  This suggests that we are less likely to suffer from learned helplessness when we can view our situation from a different perspective.

 

  • Zero in on and try to understand negative thoughts that can perpetuate feelings of being helpless.  Nip negative self-talk like ‘I am useless’ in the bud and reframe the words positively into ‘I appreciate what I can do and the support to do it better.’

 

  • Break complex tasks down into goals and tasks that can be easily achieved.

 

  • Rather than asking if someone envisages problems with getting a task done, ask them to identify opportunities and challenges and outline how they might resolve them.

 

  • Encourage others to take calculated risks and support them to feel safe as they do so.

 

  • Celebrate even the smallest of wins. They all add up.

 

  • Challenge all assumptions.

 

Visit my Resilience Coaching page to discover how you can develop resilience and empowerment.