DC Comics supervillain, the Joker, stared back at me across the conference table. His skin bleached white and his hair a ghoulish green, the Joker asked in a high squeal if the paper he held in his hands was my best work.
The Joker is a homicidal maniac, bent on creating havoc, and rarely, if ever, fights fair, relying on acid-spewing flowers and fatal laughing-gas. I knew better than to take his bait.
I simply imagined what would Batman do in this situation. I sat up in my chair in my best Caped Crusader pose, smiled back, looked him straight in the eye and said, “My team and I gave it our best shot. We put in a lot of hard work, sought out feedback of others and polished and polished our proposal until we thought it shined.”
I swear I’m sane
You must think I’ve lost my marbles. Close, but not exactly. The Wall Street Journal ran a story recently on two studies that found that children who pretend that they are Batman (or some other heroic figure) do better on measures of self-control and persistence. In particular, one of the studies found that five-year-olds benefited from taking a self-distancing perspective on executive function task through third-person self-talk as as well as taking the perspective of someone else via role play.
Walking into an important meeting last week, I figured that if the trick worked on kids, as young as five or six, maybe it would work for me with one of my tougher clients. Of course, I was Batman to my client’s Joker; Superman to his Lex Luther; Luke Skywalker to his Darth Vader; Harry Potter to his Lord Voldemort. You get the idea.
I was the hero, prepared for any situation. I wasn’t myself in a stuffy conference room. I was Batman ready to rely on my genius intellect and physical prowess or Harry Potter full of courage and bravery, ready to shout out “Expecto Patronum.”
Don’t try this at home kids
When the client, notorious for his stinging comments, asked a particular pointed question on the creative process, I was ready. I simply envisioned myself putting on my Batman mask and pulling up my sleek black leather gloves. I was out saving Gotham — or, in this case, my coworkers — from the Joker.
I’m not sure if my pretending worked, but I know one thing, I didn’t let the client’s passive aggressive comments or sarcasm get me down. I walked out of the meeting feeling good about what I had presented and good about my team.