McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine defines denial as this: a primitive ego defense mechanism by which a person unconsciously negates the existence of a disease or other stress-producing reality in his environment by disavowing thoughts, feelings, wishes, needs, or external reality factors that are consciously intolerable. In other words, a person pretends that a situation that is happening in their lives isn’t really happening at all. Oddly enough, however, the very mechanism people in denial use to protect themselves is the very thing that prevents them from actually helping themselves.
Considered one of the most primitive of the defense mechanisms and one of the most frequently used by individuals with an undeveloped, or immature, ability to cope with reality, denial is also usually accompanied by regression (“If I don’t think about it, it’s not real.”) and people existing in a constant state of denial and regression can pay a high price mentally, emotionally, and socially. With such harmful repercussions as a result, why do people choose to exist within these mechanisms? Sigmund Freud, the armchair psychologists psychologist, claimed that in order to reduce feelings of anxiety, human beings are driven towards rationalization. Saul McCloud, a teaching assistant at the University of Manchester, concurred stating that rationalization is the cognitive distortion of “the facts” to make an event or an impulse less threatening, or to protect the person’s self-esteem. It’s the conversation that plays out like this:
“My husband (or wife) does this (or that) behavior (or thing) repeatedly and makes me (or our family, himself, herself) look bad not because he (or she) doesn’t love me (or our family, himself, herself) but because (insert lame, overused excuse here).”
If you, or someone you know, lives in denial, you’ve heard statements similar to that one that may be about the person’s job, their family, their friends, their kid’s friend’s parents; however, most people, when making excuses like that for themselves, rationalize on a fairly conscious level. McCloud had this to say about those individuals, “For many people, with sensitive egos, making excuses comes so easy that they never are truly aware of it. In other words, many of us [they] are quite prepared to believe our [their] lies.” Sounds like a recipe for disaster for the friends and family who aren’t prepared to believe the lies. So, what are they to do when confronted with the denial and rationalization of a loved one or colleague? It’s an area where, according to another mental health professional, they had better tread lightly.
Michelle Aycock, a licensed psychotherapist and contributor for the Savannah Morning News, wrote about the impact of denial on relationships in a recent online article. Highlighting the difficulties of having a relationship with a person in denial because of the inability to confront the individual (due to the fear of repercussions), she had this to say, “Some people enjoy floating down the river of denial.” In other words, you can confront a person living in denial until you’re blue in the face but the only reaction you will most likely get is continued denial (“Your face isn’t blue at all, it’s red.”). She offers the following advice for dealing with a person using denial as a chronic coping mechanism:
Don’t try to take on or fix their problems. As difficult as it may be, let them deal with the consequences of choosing to live in denial however bad.
And for the person living in denial, she offers this:
If people are telling you you have a problem, then you probably have a problem.
Is there any hope for people in relationships with others living in denial? According to veteran psychologist, Dr. Bev Smallwood, there is. Smallwood wrote in an online post that if the person acknowledges and examines the areas in their life where they haven’t been completely honest and then, with that same honesty, reflects on her suggested activities below, there is hope.
Life is not easy and with all of the demands we are faced with in the 21st century, so it’s easy to understand why so many people choose to live in denial. Oftentimes, it’s easier than facing the ugly truth! But if are constantly living in denial because of situations and circumstances in your life that are repeated over and over again, and it’s causing the people around you to a.) not have candid conversations with you about your situations and circumstances because they know you’ll have a melt down, or b.) concur with you and your bullshit because they know you’ll have a meltdown, it might be time to step out of the river of denial and onto dry land.
I have the pleasure of spending most of my days at our beauty school with some of the most amazing people in the world: cosmetology students. We call them Future Professionals, a term Paul Mitchell School’s pioneered more than a decade ago. During a recent professional development class I taught, we talked about the service cycle and some of the things that can make it successful. “A great cut,” responded one Future Professional. “An awesome blow-dry and style,” responded another. “What about great communication?” I asked. Met with quizzical looks, I continued my line of questions. “Do you guys talk to your guests about services we offer that they aren’t there for? What about the products you’re using on them – do you talk to you guest about them?” No one was talking. “How about rebooking and recommending products – you’re doing that, right?” The anxiety in the room was palpable. Since performing these tasks during a service is part of the service and education experience, I was a bit concerned that they weren’t engaging in these important steps and wanted to get to the bottom of their reluctance. “Why aren’t you guys doing these basic things, guys?” I looked around the room and finally someone spoke up. “I don’t like when people tell me no.”
Fear of rejection is a common fear and is the most potent and distressing of every day events, according to psychologists, and is experienced in friendships, romantic relationships, and in the workplace. It’s no wonder After all, most of us associate the word no with rejection, and who likes to be rejected? But statistically speaking, you have a 50/50 chance that the answer will be yes and in our industry, as in countless others, yes = income. I’ll give you some real world examples of places where a yes answer would add dollars to a business’s bottom line:
At the register at Old Navy: Cashier asks, “Would you like to save 15% on your purchase today by opening an Old Navy card?” If the person says no – no big deal. If the person says yes and gets approved – they have an open line of credit and are more likely to make purchases. #makingmoney
At the register at Barnes & Noble: Cashier asks, “Would you like to get valuable coupons by sharing your email address with us?” If the person says no – no big deal. If the person says yes, they receive coupons encourage them to come to the store and spend money. #making money
At McDonald’s: Cashier asks, “Would you like to make that a large for just $2.00 more?” If the person says no – they’ll live longer. Ha ha. If the person says yes, McDonald’s just made $2.00 more than they would have made had the cashier not asked. #makingsensenow
Okay, now I want you to imagine the financial ramifications to each of the companies I used in the example above if the add-on questions were never asked. Old Navy is owned by Gap, Inc., and according to their Annual Shareholder’s report their net sales for 2012 were $15.7 billion. McDonald’s? $6.5 billion. Barnes & Noble? $6.8 billion. A huge percentage of the sales that occur in those companies come from their front line people asking those important, revenue generating, questions. And, in addition, customers expect to be asked to “add-on” to whatever it is they’re buying; they won’t be surprised or offended if you ask. In fact, if you leave off that important add-on question, some might wonder why they weren’t asked!
This week set a goal to ask at least one customer per day an add-on question – one that will increase your ticket, your retail, or your rebooking. Then, share your results with me here. I’d love to hear your success stories!
“I like thinking big. If you’re going to be thinking anything, you might as well think big.”
I’m talking about goals, you dirty rascal.
Don’t be intimidated by other people’s big &%$#^. Here are 3 easy steps to help YOU get bigger #@%$! starting today:
“If you don’t know where you are going,
you’ll end up someplace else.”
So, go out and get some big $#%@^ of your own, and make sure you tell us about it here. We love big @#$%&.