If You Tell Me to "Just Think Positively" One More Time I'll Slap You.

Have you ever had that occasion where you are at work and your own personal Aunty Acid is roaring and your own internal critic is a little bit overwhelming. And as if this is not bad enough, some bright spark walks up to you and with a Cheshire Cat smile and suggests that “thinking positively” will cure all ills. Don’t you just want to slap them over the back of the head.

This line….. “think positively” sometimes just gives me the impression that if you cover the problem in pink cotton candy and exude butterflies and uniforms that everything will automatically be ok.  I will be honest speaking as a Psychologist that I think finding someone in a negative frame of mind and suggesting they “think positively” is not the way to help them “snap out of it”.

We are currently living in a world that values this concept of “relentless positivity” and this brings with it the perception that this power of positivity can cure any ill we experience.

However, we need to recognise that our emotions contain data, and that data is information. It is actually not a bad thing to sit with the data that the emotion contains and ponder on what that data means to you and subsequently work through the problem using the data as the basis for problem solving. Always “thinking positively” can actually remove the opportunity of working through this data…. understanding it and then subsequently resolving it.

We must recognise that given our negativity bias, experiencing negative emotions is actually normal. Just think of the 6 primary emotions: fear, anger, disgust, happiness, surprise and sadness. How many of these primary emotions are positive? Yep that’s right – only one (surprise is considered neutral as it can be either positive or negative). So we have a natural bias when experiencing emotions to experience more “bad” emotions than “good” emotions. So, negativity can in fact be considered normal.

I think we need to recognise that it is ok to show up and actually experience our grief, pain, anger sometimes and just sit with it. Then move through it, process it and come out the other side.

This means that we need to develop the opportunity to enhance our emotional agility and manage through our thoughts and emotions. We can identify and accept our emotions- both good and bad- and move through them.

In the book Emotional Agility by Susan David, she outlines 4 key steps

1)Show up and recognise your emotions and confront them with curiosity and personal kindness.

2) Step out – a process of detachment and observation

3) Walking “your why”- involves identifying your core values

4) Moving on with the implementation of changes that are in line with your values.


When we are emotionally rigid, we don’t have the ability to adapt in our fast paced world, but when we have emotional agility and sit with our emotions and work them through we can often deal with complexity, can tolerate stress and overcome setbacks. We have this idea that in workplaces we need to sideline “messy emotions”. However when we allow people to work these through and sit with them and problem solve (sometimes with some help) this could be a better option than pretending they don’t exist or brushing them off.

So all yee unicorn followers out there – here this. Let us have our occasional dark clouds. We won’t sit in there long – but we are processing our emotional data and problem solving. When we come out the other side, we will be very happy to marvel at all things pink with you.


PS – for all you unicorns out there – yes, we want to enhance our opportunity to embrace more positivity in our lives. But we need to recognise sitting with negative emotions and processing them is not a bad thing.


Want to gain more emotional agility and work through your emotional data? Contact Michelle on 0412047590 or via michelle@bakjacconsulting, or click here to review Bakjac Consulting’s website for more information.

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner. Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Wellbeing and Mental Toughness to improve performance, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing.

Why Do We Fear Feedback

Let’s say we go out to dinner together and we finish our garlic bread entrée and as you smile at me, I notice you have parsley between your teeth. Would you want me to tell you? Of course you would! You would want me to tell you something you have no idea about so you are aware and can make a quick correction… right?

 So why is getting feedback any different? I really enjoyed the Book of Mistakes by Skip Pritchard which gives some great insights.

 Feedback: the mere mention of the word can make our blood pressure rise and our defences go up. For many of us, it’s a dirty word that we associate with bias, resentment, and self-doubt.  However, when done right, feedback has been proven to be the most effective means of improving communication and performance for you and your organisation.

 Why should we care about fixing feedback in the first place?

How we experience feedback today gets in the way of people showing up and doing their best work.  That’s a problem worth fixing!  During the past several years, it’s been found that nearly every organisation is trying to crack the code to better feedback.  Leaders and employees alike have got feedback wrong – both the way we think about it and the way we practice it. The good news is that this problem can be fixed.

 So what are the benefits of feedback?

 What does the research tell us about feedback in business?

·        Boost Performance: A study of more than 19,000 employees conducted by the Corporate Executive Board indicates the strongest lever of increased performance is the fairness and accuracy of a manager’s descriptive feedback, i.e., observing direct reports and sharing specific examples of what they saw without evaluating it. This kind of non-judgmental feedback was shown to inspire a whopping 39% boost in performance.

·        Drive measurable improvement: A 2018 Institute for Corporate Performance (i4cp) and the Centre for Effective Organisations (CEO) joint study called “Performance Feedback Culture Drives Business Impact” found that organisations ranked in the top third for creating a feedback culture outperformed the bottom third by a two-to-one margin in financial factors like net profit margin, return on investment, return on assets, and return on equity.

·        Increase Leader Impact: Leaders who ranked in the bottom 10 percent for giving honest feedback had teams that ranked 25 percent lower in engagement than their peers. Conversely, leaders in the top 10 percent for giving honest feedback had teams in the top quartile for engagement. Further, a study of more than 50,000 leaders found those who ranked in the top 10 percent for asking for feedback were in the 86th percentile for overall leadership effectiveness. Sadly, those wallowing in the bottom 10 percent for asking also ranked near the bottom for effectiveness at the 15th percentile. 

·        The Paradox: Surprisingly, the most common complaint about feedback is, “I don’t get enough.” This tells us that, despite feedback’s damaged brand, most of us still crave it and intuitively know that it’s a good thing— when it’s done right. A 2018 Office Vibe “Global State of Employee Engagement” study found that 62 percent of employees want more feedback from their colleagues, and 83 percent said they appreciate feedback, both positive and negative. Here’s the paradox: despite the mess we’ve made of feedback, most of us want more, yet few of us make a habit of actively seeking or extending it. Feedback begets feedback, but somebody needs to help get this ball rolling.

 Why does feedback create such a reaction?

Most of us tend to physically respond (and not in a positive way) when we hear the words, Can I give you some feedback? This reaction is very human and driven by factors that have been with us a long time. Most of us have been conditioned, through bad experiences that start in our youth and continue throughout our lives, to expect feedback to hurt. This conditioning creates connections in our brains that trigger our “fight or flight” reactions when feedback is headed our way.

Additionally, we humans just happen to be wired to be positively negative, which means we tend to over-emphasise the negative and minimise the positive.

However, when we peel back the layers and look closely at what really frightens us about feedback, it boils down to this: identity and connection. Yes, at the heart of our fear is our identity, and how that identity is shaped and reinforced by our connections to and affiliations with the rest of the world. What we truly fear are isolation, ostracism, and abandonment. And while isolation meant almost certain death for our ancestors, today the physical implications are considerably far less dire. Yet, for most of us, the desire to belong is a prime motivator. Humans are social beings; we instinctively want to be included and valued. The need to stay connected with and accepted by our communities drives our actions without our intellectual complicity. In the end, this desire for belonging gets seriously in the way of seeking, receiving, and extending feedback.

 How would you describe effective feedback?

There is an absolute argument for a fresh start. If the current ideas about and practices of feedback are wrong, then we need to wipe the slate clean and start anew. Our first step is to redefine feedback in a way that supports our true intent and desired outcomes. Consider a new definition:

 Feedback (NOUN): Clear and specific information that’s sought or extended for the sole intention of helping individuals or groups improve, grow, or advance.

 Pay particular attention to “with the sole intention of helping.” Too often in our interactions, whether it be in our youth, or adult work life, the feedback we receive is simply not helpful. If it isn’t intended to help individuals or teams thrive and grow, then why offer it or seek it? It’s equally important to tune into what’s not in the definition: namely that, in our better feedback future, feedback is not intended as evaluation, blame, or judgement.

 How to Solicit Feedback

 First, go out there and kick some ASK! We are anchored in the belief that we can fix feedback by building an army of feedback seekers. That means each of us needs to get out there and start making some focused asks. There’s a lot of power in asking. When we initiate the ask, it means we can choose the topic, who we ask, and our timing. Having that control helps us put our fear in check, so we’re far more likely to take in and benefit from what we hear.

Second, we need to share the good stuff, and share it often. If we’re going to change the way we experience and perceive feedback, then we all need to be better at sharing the goodness we notice around us every day.  Not only will this begin to change our definition of feedback, but it will also help build trusted connections with the people, give them insights into their own strengths and impact, and in the end, inspire all of us to do more and reach a little farther.

 Is there a difference between positive feedback and recognition?

We need to be he fans of recognition on all fronts. Yet let’s be clear that, while positive feedback is always recognition, recognition is not always positive feedback. Why? Because, as this new definition of feedback says, feedback is about providing clear, specific, and actionable insights. So if I say, “Hey, Paul, you rock!” that’s a nice little nugget of positive recognition, but it is not feedback. While it might make Paul’s day, he can’t do much with it. Alternatively, if I say, “Paul, the way you conduct these interviews and the format of your questions really keeps me engaged. And when I’m engaged, I learn more,” that’s positive feedback because there’s great specificity.  Additionally, it’s worth noting that when we receive specific feedback intended to help us grow and know ourselves better, we’re more likely to continue to engage. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if Paul came back and asked, “What is it about the questions you like?”  Then he and I would be off to the races, having a two-way conversation and learning together.

 How can leaders build a positive culture of feedback?

 A culture of feedback, means feedback is light and easy. It’s sought far more often than it’s offered without solicitation. It flows. It’s part of the way we work, offered in the moment (when appropriate), and it helps us understand and build on our strengths by emphasising the good. It has nothing to do with titles, levels, or hierarchy. It means that each of us takes time every day to be intentional about noticing the work of others and sharing what we witness. It encourages us to explore what we could do, or could be, with a bit more of this or a little less of that. It’s feedback that’s future-focused and expresses our gratitude. It’s affirming and inspires us to try new things or reach just that bit further.

 So, be clear on what it is not. In a true feedback culture, feedback is not packaged into an annual or semi-annual formal conversation, it’s not a summarised list of strengths and weaknesses, it’s not an anonymous 360˚ review, it’s not as assessment against your SMART goals, and it’s not assigning labels or ratings and evaluating a person’s worth against an arbitrary scale.

 So, if as a leader you are looking for ideas on how to get started, you first need to abandon some old ideas and beliefs about feedback and start fresh. Once you’ve wiped the slate clean, invest in your people. Help them understand what good feedback looks like (fair, focused, and frequent), and give them easy to apply tools to get them started. And then, as leaders, get to asking. If leaders go first in demonstrating how to seek focused and frequent feedback, others will follow. At the same time, lean into the good stuff by building team or organisational habits that are focused on gratitude and positive feedback. In summary, get asking, start sharing, and stop judging, and you’ll open doors to amazing things.

 Want to enhance your leadership skills to give great feedback? Contact Michelle about leadership coaching or training on 0412047590 or via michelle@bakjacconsulting, or click here to review Bakjac Consulting’s website for more information.

The Counter Intuitive Approach To Leading a Good Life

Mark manson enter.jpg

So it’s not the typical Positive Psychology text I might normally read 😊. However, I have to admit that I definitely enjoyed Mark Manson’s book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” and the more recent, “Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope”. So like any girl with a bit of a crush, I couldn’t resist going to hear him talk on 25 July at the Adelaide Convention Centre.

Mark explained how despite us living in the best world we’ve had yet, we somehow feel worse off than ever.

Using an equal balance of psychology, philosophy and humour, Mark broke down why we feel perpetually doomed and talked us through how to overcome these feelings. Here are my and Business Chicks top takeaways from my Breakfast with Mark Manson:

Get used to criticism because it is a fact of life

Before Mark was a best-selling author, he was a successful blogger. This “internet fame” and the perils that came with it prepared him for the criticisms he faced once he entered the New York Time’s best-sellers list. The criticisms that he faced both as blogger and after becoming an author were just something that Mark became desensitised to after time.

He explains that, “anybody who puts themselves out there – anybody who is doing any sort of creative work, has a brand online, is putting content online, you just have to get used to it [criticism]. It’s part of the job description.” Mark implores you to remember that no matter what you do there will always be people disagreeing with you or not liking what you do. “I’m not going to be for everybody and that’s fine. It’s just a fact of life,” he says.

Mark Manson.jpg

You will be a lot calmer if you stop moralising all your judgements

While criticisms have always existed, Mark believes that in modern society the reason there is so much more turmoil is because people have shifted from “point-blank, rational disagreements” to moral judgements. “Moralising every disagreement removes your ability to have discussions, to compromise, and your ability to be a basic, decent, rational human being.”

This amplification of moral significance shifts our ability to have a difference of opinion without attaching emotion to it. This is why criticisms are now so pointed and are no longer taken from a rational perspective of disagreement, leading to social anxiety and avoidance of communication, which in turn adds to our increased feelings of despair.

Smartphones are what spurred on our crisis of hope

There’s currently a mental health epidemic going on, which Mark dubs “a crisis of hope”. Despite wars being at an all-time low, life expectancies at an all-time high, extreme poverty levels declining and women’s equal rights improving, our rates of suicide, anxiety and depression have increased.

While everyone blames social media for the increase, Mark believes it’s actually smartphones that are responsible for it. This is not to say social media isn’t also to be blamed, but with the introduction of smartphones, we now face the paradox of progress, the paradox of choice and the fact that greater connectivity leads to greater loneliness.

Access to so much information has done us more bad than good

Despite our ability to access so much information thanks to the internet, Mark thinks that it has actually been a detriment to us. In what he calls the “paradox of progress”, he explains that “infinite access to information makes people more emotional or more irrational.” This is because everyone has an opinion and are always contradicting each other which causes our brains to short-circuit as seemingly nothing is true according to everyone else.

Beyond this, a lot of the information we access is emotionally-charged which makes discourse in our culture more difficult. “What rises to the top is the information that stokes the most moral outrage and moralisation of our judgements,” Mark continues. “There seems to be a threshold where more information becomes counterproductive for our minds, so the name of the game in the 21st century is not to know more or do more, it’s to know or do less but be able to find those crucially important things that are worth focusing on.”

Too much can often be worse than not enough

The “Easterlin Paradox’ tells us that the wealthier the country, the more mental health issues are present.

Mark Manson easterlin paradox.jpg

In Western society we have a “paradox of choice”. This sounds like a good problem to have, however while being offered too many things to choose from sounds like the dream, Mark says that it actually “creates a crisis of meaning for people”. The fear of missing out and the anxiety of choosing wrong plagues someone when they’re faced with having to make a decision. Mark summarises it by saying that “giving people more access to more of anything makes them appreciate it less”.

Beyond this, Mark believes that having to make a choice is often anxiety-inducing and stressful because “people start developing a sense that they’re not doing enough or didn’t make the right decision or they’re missing out on the best option”. Ultimately, the paradox of choice can be understood as “more options actually leads to less satisfaction in whatever you choose”.

Paradoxically, more connectivity leads to greater loneliness

While on paper it sounds silly, in reality it’s true. The introduction of social media has shifted the definition of a “friend” from something that was once a close bond to a loose relation. Mark explains that social media was built on the premise of more connectivity but wasn’t scaled based on the quality of the connections. “The bargain of social media is we traded in a few high-quality relationships for having many, many low-quality relationships,” he says.

These increased number of friendships but lack of solid connections leads to loneliness, fragmentation and social isolation. This turns maintaining friendships outside of the virtual world into a chore, but Mark believes that friendships should be hard because that is what makes relationships feel valuable, and that is what we are lacking in the 21st century. “You don’t build intimacy via text,” Mark concluded. “We need to force ourselves to mentally challenge ourselves with a conscious effort towards face-to-face interactions, commitment to those relationships in your life and making the point to ask to have conversations in-person instead of texting.”

A study was done approximately 10 years ago which asked us how many people we would trust with a secret – the average answer – 3. The same study was conducted 3 years ago. The number of people we would now trust with a secret – a big fat zero!

Realistically we also need to consider that there is in fact no such thing as a personal problem. We have this delusion that our problems are somehow unique. But in fact – everyone is going through similar sort of sh*t. So, consider – a problem shared is a problem halved. Increase reall connectivity.


So what can we do?

We need conscious ways to stretch our mind to stay healthy and regularly challenge our beliefs and ideas. We need to force those face to face connections and interactions.

Mark’s concluding pearl of wisdom- “Our struggles define our success… so chose your struggles wisely”


Want to gain more meaning and build relationships? Contact Michelle on 0412047590 or via michelle@bakjacconsulting, or click here to review Bakjac Consulting’s website for more information.

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner. Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Wellbeing and Mental Toughness to improve performance, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing.



How Can You Start Taming Your Emotions

We experience emotions every day. But what we are not so good at is perceiving them, understanding them and managing them.

It is important to recognise what actual emotion you are experiencing. Remember emotions contain information about what you and others are feeling. But what is so very important to recognise is that emotions are just data – they are not inherently good or bad – they are just information.

But this incoming information needs to be correctly identified and then correctly labelled so that we can then manage the emotion accordingly. In this way we can integrate our emotions and our thinking.

In other words – “If we name it we can tame it”.

We need to have the ability to understand the causes and complexity of emotions and figure out why we feel a certain way and how these feelings change over time. If you understand emotions, you can predict how an idea will be taken, how others might react to you, etc

Most of us are aware that there are 6 Primary Emotions:

·       Happy

·       Sad

·       Fear

·       Anger

·       Surprise

·       Disgust

We recognise that the definition of a primary emotion is that it is universal across cultures and it has survival value. Consider:

Sadness – we lose something of value

Fear – possible threat either physical or psychosocial

Happiness – we gain something of value

Anger – we are blocked from getting something: something or someone is getting in our way.

Disgust – our rules are violated: something or someone is offensive to us.


These 5 basic emotions however, lead us to experience significant different “intensities” of the individual emotion. Just consider the emotion of anger. Do we really use only one word to describe this emotion? Or do we use a number of different words to describe how we feel when something is blocking us from getting what we want?

Consider this list of words to describe anger.

·       Upset

·       Annoyed

·       Furious

·       Irritable

·       Enraged

·       Angry

·       Frustrated

·       Mad

Now if I asked you to, could you put them in order from highest intensity to lowest intensity. Go on…. Give it a go.

We need to recognise that we will all have our own semantic meaning of the words. But the key is to explore the meanings and gain understanding that there are different levels to the emotions we feel.

So instead of always saying – “That just makes me furious!” in response to anything that makes you feel angry – Could we in fact chose different word to describe our anger based on the different contexts we experience. By doing so, could we increase our emotional vocabulary and then derive strategies to actually manage the intensity of the emotion we are experiencing?


Want more information on understanding and managing your emotions and those of others? Contact Michelle on 0412047590 or via michelle@bakjacconsulting.