Courage and the importance of ‘scripts’by
Technical stuff today. Psychological scripts are really important when helping someone to be courageous.
Psychological scripts (or ‘scripts’) are defined as “a sequence of expected behaviours for a given situation”. Examples include your routine when you get into work (hang up your coat, say hello to colleagues, check emails, get a cup of coffee), how you respond to a request from your boss (listen to their request, promise to resolve it, go away and find the answer) or how you behave in a certain situation such as eating in a restaurant (shown to your table, given menus, order drinks and food, eat nicely and so on). Scripts are usually acquired through practice.
Scripts are really important in helping us get through the day because they don’t require us to use much brain processing and allow us to focus on the important differences. They also give us a template of behaviours for potential action in a particular circumstance.
However, when confronted with an unusual event such as an emergency, ethical dilemma or potential wrongdoing, most of us don’t have a script to fall back on.
What most of us do in an unusual situation is muddle through, using whatever scripts we already have that might be appropriate. In extreme situations however, for instance in a life threatening emergency, the lack of a script can lead to us freezing and becoming catatonic.
So why are scripts important for courage then?
For a number of reasons.
1. We can prepare our courage script in advance.
If we think about potential situations where courage might be required – a public speech, disagreeing with a boss or colleague, addressing wrongdoing – then preparation allows us to think about how the situation might ‘play out’, how others might react and how we could respond to them.
Preparation also allows us to think about why we will respond in certain ‘courage’ situations. One of the most difficult aspects of going from thinking about being courageous to actually carrying out the act is being able to explain to ourselves (and others!) as to why we are prepared to take the risk. Creating courage scripts offers us an opportunity to clarify for ourselves the principles upon we wish to act.
2. They allow us to focus on action, not thinking.
How many times have we looked back at a moment and thought “I wish I’d spoken up then”? Potentially courageous moments come along haphazardly and usually when we least expect them. If we have already created in our minds our courageous scripts, when that moment arrives we can act, not think (or worse, reflect).
3. They help us build our confidence.
The simple preparation of a set of courageous scripts gives many people the confidence to take risks and approach new situations with a positive frame of mind. Where someone has thought through the implications of potentially difficult situations and what their responses might be, it allows them to better enjoy the positives of the unknown i.e. “if the worst happens I can deal with it so I can now enjoy the good things…”.
4. They help us avoid potentially courageous situations.
This sounds counter-intuitive but when people develop courageous scripts, they get better at recognising potential issues and taking steps to avoid the need for taking a courageous action.
For example, take an individual who has regular commitments outside of work that they can’t avoid (family etc.). Those individuals who have developed a script for dealing with their boss who unexpectedly asks them to work late will also typically make sure that their boss knows of their other obligations. Those individuals will not only have prepared themselves for when they say “no”, but will recognise the importance of ‘laying the groundwork’ beforehand.
Courage is a competency which can be developed. Using scripts is a powerful way of building your personal courage.