How to Throw Someone Off Their Game

    Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.


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    How to Throw Someone Off Their Game

    This is really more applicable to sports and games than anything else, but it can work in a variety of situations. If you find yourself in a situation where you are getting soundly beaten in any game by an opponent, you can throw them off in a way that is seemingly benign and yet quite brutal.

    It's this simple: Ask them about their technique and how they are able to do what they are doing.

    Asking someone how they are doing so well takes them out of the "zone" or away from their "flow." For the most part, that optimal performance stage when someone is really doing amazingly well is not related to too much thought. Truly hitting your stride only occurs when you are not consciously considering what you are doing but just doing it. Humans have two types of memory: implicit and explicit. Implicit memory is long term: the stuff you know so well that it is always operating on the unconscious level--it's there but you don't actually think about it, even though you are actively using it. Outstanding performance occurs when we are operating with implicit memory because we know what we know but are also able to focus on other things without distraction because that memory is so in the background we are not even aware of it. Explicit memory, however, requires a conscious effort to recall and analyze things--and the moment you ask someone about their technique, they shift from the implicit memory stage (which is where superior performance occurs) into explicit memory. Suddenly, the focus is not as sharp when he or she has to balance analysis with performance. That's when you take advantage of the situation.

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