A, B, C + D & E = Potential

Jackson five have a 'great' song with a chorus that loops 'A,B,C...' Its well catchy and upbeat.

Let's put that on ice for the mo...

In their book ‘The Listening Leader’ Zugaro and Zugaro present in interesting tool for making information ‘meaningful’.

Whether in your capacity as a leader, learner, student or other role the ‘checklist’ ahead is quite a useful one even when applied to our own reflections inc:

‘Put all the facts on the table’

‘Be clear and straightforward’

‘Be specific and give evidence’

‘Win your audience’s attention’

‘Don’t be a spin doctor’

How often have we found our own appraisals of our self to be skewed unfavourably by how we feel or a difficult situation?

Seligman has written and researched this and says in a slightly different way that we can often A,B and C ourselves (originally developed by Ellis) and come out on the other side not feeling so great (and no, it does not sound or feel like the Jackson 5 song when we are doing this!)

ABC in Seligmans’ model stands for Adversity (or trigger), Belief, Consequence (originally developed by Ellis).


Let’s say you get feedback from a course assignment, test, or exam (Adversity) which is not quite what you were seeking (the trigger point).


As a result of the perceived result you believe that you are a ‘failure’, ‘inadequate’, etc – basically you label yourself.


The consequence? You don’t feel so great.

This is where Seligman says a lot of us can stop in our thinking (or press repeat) and in essence stop ourselves from thinking favourably about who we are and what we can achieve.

Stay on that roundabout enough times and Seligman says you can lend yourself to ‘Learned Helplessness.’

This is where Seligman says rather than stop at:

A + B + C (Adversity, Belief, Consequence) yet how about slapping on D + E?

DISPUTE + ENERGIZE as in dispute the case you are making against you + provide a more favourable narrative related to that outcome at hand.

This is how that would look.

So you’ve not passed the test (Adversity)

You now believe that it’s a reflection of what you are capable of (Belief)

As a result of that belief your feeling a bit yucky (Consequence)


Dispute it! Dispute that belief. Argue against it.

For example…

‘It’s not true! The outcome of this test is not a reflection of what I’m capable of, nor does it mean that this will always be the case.’


Energize and put your attention and thinking onto alternatives that are within your current and future control, for example:

“That test was difficult and provides me with an opp to study harder, or far more in advance. I am a capable student and this is part of the learning process. Feedback like this is not an entire reflection of who I am but good feedback as to how I can take it to next levels…which by the way I know I can, I’ve done it before, I can do it again. I’ve got this far, I can go further.”

Imagine a child who had gone through the same thing and was now looping on abc. Think about what you’d say to them to help them dispute and energize so as to encourage them.

Imagine applying that to you too.

Recapping and linking back to the ‘Listening Leader’, look at the facts, be clear, give evidence, win your own attention and avoid ‘spinning’.

There is always a way out of it.

If it’s too tricky to do alone grab a nearby friend, mentor, tutor, teacher, etc that can help you to dispute your own A,B,C and then see the bigger picture again.

With Arete,


p.s. next time you A,B, C it, do it Jackson 5 style by adding D + E - maybe even while listening to it (or another energizing song you love).

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