Corporate Eye

How to deal with setbacks in your corporate communications

I invited Graham Price, a psychologist and executive coach, to write a post for us about dealing with setbacks. Of course, this isn’t only relevant to corporate communications, but to all aspects of life…

A newsletter has gone out with a glaring, and rather embarrassing, error. Someone has decided to set the cat among the pigeons with internal gossip and morale is dropping. A major communications plan has failed to deliver and now you have the fall out to deal with. How do you deal with such setbacks?

Are you immobilised by regret, disappointment, stress or worry? Or are you the resilient type who can quickly shrug off disappointments and refocus on action to build the future?

Chartered Psychologist, development trainer and executive coach Graham W Price teaches his clients how to become more resilient so they can focus on action rather than dwelling on past or present losses.

Some coaches and development trainers argue there’s no such thing as failure, only learning opportunities. But Price believes it’s usually unrealistic to expect us to review setbacks in a positive way, and the problem with trying to ‘reframe’ setbacks into something positive, is that it reinforces the idea that situations can only be accepted if they’re positive.

Price advocates acceptance rather than ‘reframing’, viewing the latter as a bonus if we can do it. The key to resilience is to be able to accept negative situations and events, at the same time as focusing on action to change them or otherwise improve the future.

Almost all negative thoughts, such as regret, dissatisfaction, unhappiness, disappointment, upset, stress or irritation involve wishing something were ‘already’ different. In other words we’re wishing something that’s happened hadn’t happened or we’re wishing that a situation that exists right now didn’t exist right now. Both are wishing for the impossible.

And yet that’s precisely what people want whenever they’re dissatisfied about anything.

Wanting things to be already different is called ‘resisting what is’. The opposite is ‘accepting what is’, which simply means not wishing things were already different. Being able to ‘accept what is’ is the basis of resilience. It allows us to focus only on action to improve the future.

Price developed a technique to train himself to ‘accept what is’ all the time. It’s called Positive Acceptance and is now widely accepted with thousands of people trained to practice it. Positive Acceptance is a simple four step process:

  1. Create a habit of noticing whenever we’re wanting something to be ‘already’ different (easy enough as this is almost always what we’re doing whenever we’re dissatisfied about anything)
  2. Recognise this is irrational as we’re wishing for the impossible
  3. Drop the thought (surprisingly easy once we’ve carried out the first two steps)
  4. Re-focus on action to improve the future, to the extent this is practical and worthwhile

Price suggests we initially practice on small things (burnt toast, red traffic lights, missed trains) and then build up to bigger things. With practice it becomes more automatic. With further practice it becomes more unconscious and negative thoughts eventually stop arising. Once the negative, panic thoughts are cleared – then we can get on with the real business of sorting out the communications issue we’ve been dealt.

Feelings or emotions can get in the way of ‘accepting what is’. It’s hard to engage in any type of rational thinking when we’re upset, angry or anxious. Price suggests we wait for feelings to subside before engaging in Positive Acceptance. It can also be useful to deal with uncomfortable feelings using a similar acceptance-based approach.

Price encourages his clients to refuse to maintain irrational thoughts that involve ‘resisting what is’ (or what will be) and to instead focus on action to change the future. He claims by practicing these techniques his clients become hugely resilient and much more satisfied and effective.

Learning to ‘accept what is’ all the time removes dissatisfaction from our lives. Most of the time dissatisfaction is debilitating and de-motivating. It can be replaced by much more effective motivators such as having clear preferences about how we want the future to be and making a contribution to others. These motivators don’t detract from resilience and taking action and they’re not debilitating.

Once we’ve developed this level of resilience setbacks can be taken in our stride, while we focus on any lessons learned and taking action to rebuild the future. Remember setbacks happen – the most important thing is dealing with them and moving on with the job of corporate communications.

Graham W Price is a chartered psychologist, CBT specialist, coach, trainer and professional speaker. He is an accredited member of the British Psychological Society (BPS), the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) and a registered practitioner psychologist with the Health Professions Council (HPC).

He is author of What Is, Is! The Power of Positive Acceptance published by HotHive, outlining the above tools and others needed for achieving satisfaction, resilience and success.

For more information about Graham see

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