Responding to Negative Predictions

Goal: Build skill in helping others transform their negative predictions

Estimated time: 15–20 minutes

Before you try to use the response strategy spontaneously, right at the moment when you hear a negative prediction in conversation, get some practice walking someone through the steps. You can do this with a coworker, friend, or anyone else you feel comfortable with. Tell the person that you’ve been learning about negative predictions, and ask if they’d be willing to have you practice a strategy with them. If they say yes, go through the following steps:

  1. Briefly explain the concept of negative predictions, and describe some of the experiences you’ve had working through them on your own. (By now, you should have done plenty of this.)
  2. Ask the person to tell you about a negative prediction they’d be comfortable sharing. Aim for one that is causing them some distress, but that’s not too deeply upsetting.
  3. Guide the person through the questions at the bottom of the page, redirecting them if they get off track.
  4. Once you’re finished, ask your partner for feedback about your coaching:
  • What did you do that was helpful, and what wasn’t as helpful?
  • Did the person come away with a clear understanding of negative predictions?
  • Did you help them see what they could do differently, without giving the impression that you were judging or criticizing them?
  • Did they learn something new about their situation?
  • Did their feelings about their situation change in any way?
  • Do they feel good about the plans they developed?

We encourage you to repeat this exercise with several different people, to the point where you feel confident with it, before trying the response strategy spontaneously. This will also start preparing you to work with group negative predictions. We recommend that you don’t try intervening in a group until you’ve done this exercise multiple times, and also had repeated success using the strategy spontaneously.

Questions to Undo Another Person’s Negative Predictions

Questions for Gathering Facts

  • Can you know what’s going to happen in the future?
  • Are you aware that you’re treating your prediction about the future as though it were already true?
  • Have you had any positive experiences in past similar situations?
  • When you’ve had negative experiences in similar situations, what factors contributed to those outcomes?
  • What is different about your situation now compared to similar past situations that ended badly?
  • What factors in your current situation might impact the outcome you’re worried about?
  • Which of those factors can you influence or control?
  • What resources and options do you have?
  • What relevant facts are you missing, and how can you gather those facts?

Questions for Planning

  • Knowing what has happened in the past, what could you do differently this time?
  • What steps can you take to help prevent the outcome you fear and make a better outcome more likely?
  • Are there any contingency plans you want to put in place?

Question for Managing Uncertainty

  • If you’re finding it difficult to sit with uncertainty, what can you do right now to help yourself?

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