Play the game of reappraisal

by | Dec 29, 2014 | Blog | 0 comments

footballThe Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck serves as an excellent role model for leaders everywhere.

Rather than feeling bad when opposing players pummel him on the playing field, Luck turns the situation around and views it from another perspective.

He congratulates his opponents on their prowess by yelling “Great job!”, “What a hit!” or some other positive acknowledgement.

As described in the recent Wall Street Journal article, “Andrew Luck: The NFL’s Most Perplexing Trash Talker. The Colts Quarterback Drives Defenders Crazy by Offering Compliments; Head Games or Genuine Kindness?”, Luck’s on-the-field behavior baffles his competitors.

Yet Luck’s actions demonstrate admirable leadership behavior on many different levels.

By reappraising his situation, Luck is using one of the most effective techniques for controlling himself, his emotions and the performance of himself and his team.

Reappraisal has both short- and long-term benefits, as I’ve learned in my applied neuroscience program.

For example, the immediate actions and short-term benefits in Luck’s situation include:

  • Switching his attention from feeling physical pain to rewarding others for their performance. This action can trigger dopamine-containing neurons in his brain as well as his competitors’ brains. For Luck, the dopamine may mask his pain. For competitors, the dopamine makes them feel good too, although there is an unintended consequence that the reinforcement could encourage players to hit Luck more often and harder.
  • Catching his opponents off guard because they don’t expect the opposing quarterback to act this way. Luck captures the attention of the players who are often so surprised by his positive recognition that they aren’t sure how to respond. This surprise may hurt their ability to focus on future plays, which can work to the advantage of Luck and his teammates.
  • Focusing on the game from the spectators’ viewpoint, not just from his personal vantage point. By reconsidering the plays from the perspective of providing good sports entertainment, Luck can view himself as a contributor to the larger game, not just as an individual contributor who’s not performing up to his potential by getting sacked. This helps him keep a healthy perspective for himself and the game.

Longer term benefits of reappraisal include reduced stress, fewer conflicts with others and less wear and tear on physical health.

For many people, though, reappraisal doesn’t come naturally. They either have to learn the method from a coach, or work with a coach to help them refine their technique.

Also, research shows from Gaurav Suri, Konrad Whittaker and James Gross (Launching Reappraisal: It’s Less Common Than You might Think, Emotion, 2015) that regular practice helps people remember to reappraise and enjoy its benefits. Yet, people forget to practice.

For me and some of my school colleagues, we view reappraisal as a game we can play—with no physical pain. This not only helps us remember to reappraise, but also makes it easier to turn the negative into the positive. (See the post Turn thoughts around…if you can’t turn them off for more information on this topic.)

Or, you can be like Andrew Luck, who’s both lucky and smart on the football field as he reappraises himself into a memorable career.

Whatever approach you take, just remember the ability to turn a difficult situation around and see an upside is a characteristic of a content, successful individual.

What’s your response to reappraisal?


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