June 8, 2011
It may sound obvious, but I was struck the other day about how different we each can be when we are at our best versus under stress. The thought was prompted by my work with a very mart, caring and fun client. I always enjoy our interactions. However, I kept hearing reports that other people have lot of difficulties with him, which confused me. Then I had the occasion to witness him firsthand in a less than skillful moment and I realized, “Oh, when she has to deliver potentially bad news, all his people skills go out the window. He becomes a stickler for the rules and the other person doesn’t feel received.”
Where do you go under stress? We each have a particular habit. One of my female clients becomes competitive, looking to show she’s the smartest person in the room, alienating her colleagues in the process. I become speeded up so I’m leaving the room and on to the next thing while you’re still talking to me. With my family, that speed can turn to anger if I sense they’re thwarting what I want. The feeling is I don’t have time to argue, just get on board or get out of my way!
Recognizing our stress habit can be liberating. At the least it’s the first step to transforming it. But for me there has been something very profound in the sheer acknowledgment. It helps me separate out who I am from what I do. Now when I find myself going warp speed and getting angry, at least I know I’m stressed out!