In 2006, Careerbulder.com reported that 77% of workers feel burnout on the job. Their study goes on to report that; “Most workers most often blame their colleagues for their office anxiety, with 16% citing difficult co-workers as their primary cause of stress at work.”
To add to that, most of us are shortsighted about how we come across to others in stressful situations. Sometimes we regret things we say, but more often than not, we simply filter out most of the emotionally charged behavior that we inflict on others.
And these emotionally charged moments damage careers and destroy relationships with colleagues and customers every day.
In the book, Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When The Stakes Are High, (page 24) the authors describe some of the games we play under stress. Here’s what they write:
“For instance, sometimes we move to silence. We play Salute and Stay Mute. That is, we don’t confront people in positions of authority. Or at home we may play Freeze Your Lover. With this tortured technique we give loved ones the cold shoulder in order to get them to treat us better.”
“Sometimes we rely on hints, sarcasm, innuendo, and looks of disgust to make our points. We play the martyr and then pretend we’re actually trying to help. Afraid to confront an individual, we blame an entire team for a problem – hoping the message will hit the right target. Whatever the technique, the overall method is the same. We go to silence.”
“On other occasions, not knowing how to stay in dialogue, we rely on violence – anything from subtle manipulation to verbal attacks. We act like we know everything, hoping people will believe our arguments. We discredit others, hoping people won’t believe their arguments. And then we use every manner of force to get our way. We borrow power from the boss; we hit people with biased monologues. The goal, of course, is always the same – to compel others to our point of view.”
Do any of these games sound familiar to you? I’ve been guilty of almost all of them. How about you?
If you think it’s time to learn more about your style under stress, the authors of “Crucial Conversations” (also the brilliant minds behind VitalSmarts), developed a little test for us. You can find it in the book, pages 56-63, or you can take it online at the VitalSmarts website, here.
Once you know your style under stress, you’ll be more self-aware. In other words, you’ll be clearer about “how” other people experience your behavior in difficult situations. And as always, greater self-awareness allows you to make choices that are more conscious.
What would you add to this?
Communicating Effectively Under Stress – This is a great article with several useful tips, written by Joni Johnston
Communication and Self-Management to Reduce Stress – A thought provoking article loaded with useful strategies, written by Joshua Uebergang
When Stress Strikes – Nice simple coverage of some of the crazy games we play when stress strikes, written by Rick Brenner