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How to Discover and Re-Write Your Negative Scripts – Sandler Training

Sandler Training


Written by Hamish Knox; President of Sandler in Calgary, Canada

Creating accountable, sales focused organizations in Calgary



In the past two weeks you’ve probably said or done something that negatively impacted you or one of your direct reports.

Maybe it was doing a task for them instead of training them to do it, creating learned helplessness, or maybe you said, “look, just get it done” to a direct report who asked for support, discounting their feelings and demotivating them.

Unless you’re a horrible person who gets their emotional needs met by being the savior for your team or making your direct reports feel not-OK you probably didn’t consciously choose to do either of those things. You were operating from a “script,” a component of Transactional Analysis that is a pattern of behavior hard wired into your brain, created from your past experiences, especially experiences you had when you were a child.

Scripts run when they are “triggered,” by someone saying or doing something, usually towards you. Powerful scripts, those that were reinforced regularly when you were young, may get triggered from words or actions in your environment (picture someone rolling their eyes and making an “ugh” noise in response to something heard on television).

We’re usually not aware of our scripts unless we have a (hopefully) metaphorical “head slap” moment (picture a salesperson leaving a prospect’s office thinking ‘why did I say/do that?’). Sometimes the head slap is delivered by a peer or supervisor (picture an executive saying to a manager, “you’re great technically, but no one wants to work with you.”). When you have a head slap moment you’re at the start of discovering a negative script and, possibly, re-writing it.

To discover and re-write your negative scripts follow these four steps.

  1. Identify the trigger that cause the script to run – until you identify the trigger you won’t be able to re-write your script because the trigger causes the script to run. After the head slap moment, replay in your mind, then write down, what was said or done that prompted you to react negatively.
  2. Write down exactly what you said or did – putting your negative behavior down allows you to address it rationally. Our memory is fallible and we tend to justify our behavior (e.g. “yes, I snapped, but I was really tired.”) if we don’t write it down.
  3. Write down two positive alternatives to your negative behavior – writing down alternatives (e.g. “I’ll count to three before responding” or “I’ll ask a question to clarify”) to your current negative script begins the process of wiring those responses into your brain so next time you hit the same trigger you increase your chances of responding positively.
  4. Practise – under stress we revert to old patterns of behavior. Practising your positive alternatives either by role playing, self-talk or visualization makes the connection between the trigger and your current negative pattern weaker.

Re-writing your negative scripts will take months if not years. You’ve carried them with you since childhood so they won’t go away just because you say to yourself, “I’ll never do that again.” Give yourself permission to fail when re-writing your scripts, because you will, or you’ll give up and fall (harder) back into your negative patterns of behavior.

Until next time… go lead.


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