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The Lost Skill of Forgiveness

TIGNUM Thoughts

December 2nd, 2021

Insights from the author

By Chris Males

When you initially think of the word forgiveness, you may think of the large and often painful moments in your life. At TIGNUM, we would like you to think of forgiveness as a skill that can be intentionally practiced, especially in the smaller moments of your everyday work and personal life.

Much of modern-day work involves projects where ‘teaming’ up with colleagues from different divisions, offices, and geographies is necessary. In these highly dynamic projects, it is expected that some productive discord and candid conversations will happen along the way. This is especially true for a team committed to a performance culture where speaking up, offering honest feedback, and challenging the status quo are all parts of the innovative process.

In a fast-moving business world, this process will undoubtedly lead to moments where we all make simple mistakes along the way. For example, maybe you received feedback that could have been delivered better. Maybe you were excited about a new idea, only for it to be seemingly dismissed without much consideration.

These are all minor things, but they can still trigger us and even hurt our feelings…especially when we’re fatigued.

Developing a mindset that includes the skill of forgiveness can hugely benefit our own Sustainable High Performance. Psychologist Dr. Fred Luskin’s research at the Stanford Forgiveness Project has shown that forgiveness can improve our physical and mental health, and increase our vitality, confidence, optimism, and hope. At the same time, forgiveness can decrease anger, stress, and depression. When you reframe your stories from focusing on how you were wronged or hurt and instead apply the mindset skill of forgiveness, you see things totally different. Instead of being a victim, you rewire your brain to see opportunities for compassion, empathy, and personal growth. At TIGNUM, we know that this isn’t easy, and it takes a process that can be practiced. Here is a process that we have found to be very effective.

1. Practice self-observation

Notice how these situations make you feel, and label the feelings you are experiencing. This emotion labeling exercise is a great way to develop your emotional agility and to quickly validate your brain that what you are feeling is normal.

2. Take control of your physiology

Apply a simple breathing technique such as Box Breathing (inhaling on a count of four, holding your inhalation for a count of four, exhaling on a count of four, holding your exhalation for a count of four). This technique can help down-regulate your body’s survival response. Regaining control of your physiology can help you regain control over your emotions. In this calmer state, you can focus on the facts of the event and even start to better understand others’ perspectives.

3. Identify your choices

When your feelings are hurt, you have several choices. You can reactively strike back with defensiveness, you can shut down in silence, or you can reframe your thinking to turn this situation into a learning opportunity. Any of these choices could be correct, but we have noticed that Sustainable High Performers take control of their thoughts and turn uncomfortable moments into growth opportunities. In this instance, you’re applying forgiveness for your own sake, but your rewards are those mentioned above, along with your personal growth.

4. Focus forward

One technique we have found to be very powerful is to keep your focus forward. Rather than replaying the pain that was triggered (often unintentionally), focus forward to see your intentions of staying positive and applying forgiveness. This not only grows your mindset skill of forgiveness, it also makes it easier for you to effortlessly do this in the future.

5. Enhance your self-image

As we always say at TIGNUM, human beings can’t outperform our self-image, but we can purposefully create a self-image of ourselves at our best. Sustainable High Performers build the mindset skill of forgiveness into their self-image. They see themselves applying forgiveness to even the smallest situations so they can grow and master it.

Practicing forgiveness can serve as a great reset button in many ways. It can help us off-load the baggage we carry and become more compassionate, patient, and empathetic people. It can also help us start each day with a clean slate, renewed energy, and a forward focus, so we can create the impact we want.

Other Thoughts

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