As humans, we’re all prone to overthinking from time to time, both in our personal and professional lives. It’s an unavoidable consequence of caring about the circumstances you find yourself in – was I wrong to pick a fight with my roommate or partner last night? Did I get my point across clearly enough in my performance review with my manager yesterday?
The problem with overthinking is that it warps our perception of the situation. We go from having an objective appraisal of a conversation or series of events to a potentially unwarranted concern that the outcome will be negative – even though nothing will have happened to even remotely suggest that. Years of research regularly and consistently points to the idea that depression and anxiety are strongly related to an individual’s perception of events rather than the reality.
While overthinking and a warped perception doesn’t always result in things like depression and anxiety, difficulties can arise in other situations. As a recruiter, I regularly find myself guiding both clients and candidates in helping them come to reasonable conclusions about the hiring processes they’re currently involved in. On occasion I have experienced hiring managers focusing far too much on the results of a candidate’s personality or psychometric tests and subsequently having concerns about whether the candidate is now a fit – despite my careful and thorough screening and full confidence that, in fact, this candidate is indeed an excellent fit, and now I am tasked with the job of convincing my client that psychometric tests are not the be all and end all.
Similarly with candidates, I am no stranger to phone and email conversations full of retrospective analysis of how an interview went. Candidates will come out of an interview one afternoon, feeling satisfied they did their best and answered all questions well, only to send me a panicked email the next morning, fully convinced the interview was a disaster – purely because they lay awake all night thinking about it.
Overthinking is human nature, and part of our inbuilt self-preservation system. It allows us to anticipate the various possible obstacles that may arise in our day to day lives and then prepare for them accordingly – but, as with everything, moderation is key. Trying to account for every possible negative outcome of a situation will eventually result in you convincing yourself a negative outcome will definitely happen – and nobody likes a Negative Nancy.