Posts Tagged ‘safety’

You are a new college graduate and have just landed your first real job.  You’ll be moving to a large Metropolitan area and you’ll need to find a place to live in the new town.  Looking at the Apartment Finder booklets, the Sunday paper and Craig’s List you find there are thousands of apartments available, across a 100 square mile area!  You don’t know anyone there so you tell your colleagues at the new office you want to rent a two-bedroom apartment and ask their advice on location.  Here’s what they say:

Suzie says “Drive around and look for “apartment for rent” signs and find something within your budget.  Neighborhoods are all pretty much the same here.”

Jan says, “I live in River Estates and they have apartments for everyone’s budget.”

Bob says, “Any place is safe in the metro area if you just stay alert.  Pick a location like I did near the shopping mall.  It’s a longer drive but worth it”

How do you pick the right one?  Here’s a decision tool I’ve used many times when I changed jobs and moved ourselves or our family members:  Think Safety, Security, Proximity and Value, in that order.

  • Safety:  Avoid living in high crime areas even if it means you must drive further to work each day.  Go to www.CrimeReports.com  and check the crime statistics for the areas you are considering for apartments.
  • Security:  Only seriously consider apartment complexes (or apartments in houses) that are bright and well lit at night.  If you’ll have a car, look for off – street parking in a secure area.  (If without a car, look for easy, well-lit access to public transportation — wide, bright sidewalks for example)
  • Proximity:  If driving to work remember you’ll be doing that every workday so pick an area to live that has several routes available to and from work, preferably an interstate-sized highway and another major route.  This gives you options when an accident blocks a route.  And choose a location as close as possible to your work location (biking/walking distance would be ideal for many people).  If you are moving with another person[1], and they will be working at a different site, to be fair try to pick a living location that requires each of you to drive roughly the same time to and from your work.  And, of course, proximity to recreational areas, downtown restaurants and shopping areas will need to be factored into the decision.  Then drive these routes at rush hour and/or the times you’ll be commuting.  An open road at 3 PM can become a rolling parking lot at 5:30.
  • Value:  As the list of apartments being considered shrinks, you’ll think about value and amenities — What you’ll get for your money.  A list of pros and cons will help you make the decision:  number of bedrooms, baths, washer and dryer, fitness center, pool, proximity to work and other locations, monthly rent, length of lease, acceptance of pets, amenities fees, etc.

If several apartments are equally desirable, a tie breaker might be the direction (and the times) you’ll be driving to and from work.  If working 9-5 you’ll want to drive generally westward in the morning and eastward in the evening, so the rising/setting sun is always at your back and not in your squinting eyes!  All else being equal for nine-to-fivers, live east of where you’ll be working.  Traffic congestion is often aggravating enough without the added stress of a sun-glare-induced headache twice daily, not to mention the ever-present risk of traffic accidents due to poor visibility (ask Los Angeles – dwellers about this)!

Who knew there was a preferred process for picking your new place?!?


[1] Agreeing on priorities for each of the four factors—and then adding a weight (importance, twice as important, three times as important), before looking at the first apartment or neighborhood, can prevent debates and arguments.

In this six part mini-series we have talked about how other people can cause us to feel stressed, how we can recognize their disruptive behaviors and how (and when) we can then get them stopped.  Just remember a few key points:

  • Aggressive people (especially bullies) count on other people’s high threshold for avoiding confrontation.  Bullies grow accustomed to “getting away with” bad behavior, with actions that unnecessarily inconvenience others.  Bullying in schools has become an epidemic and has resulted in tragedies when the victims commit murder or suicide. But even just a little corrective effort, by lots of people, adds up to lots of positive impact.
  • Sometimes, insecurity causes people to overcompensate and cross into aggressive behavior.  But we will leave the issue of “cause” for mental health professionals to address.  Law enforcement officers will tell you that bullies should be confronted early in their “careers”, when their aggressive behavior is first noticed by parents, teachers or the victims.  A society’s tolerance of bad behavior usually lets it get worse because, as with criminals in general, bullies usually just get more aggressive, not less.  Just as petty crimes lead to major crimes, minor bullying and “pushing” behavior in a person can lead to the person developing into an increasingly aggressive person who leaves a bow-wave of stress as they plow through the lives of others.
  • Each society determines what behavior is acceptable and the people of that society then individually and collectively enforce those norms.  Whenever a subset of individuals violates the norms, other people will be at least inconvenienced causing minor stress or perhaps even aggravated causing serious stress and in extreme cases innocent bystanders can be injured or killed.
  • To minimize the stress you feel from others, help them learn more friendly, cooperative behaviors.  We live in North Carolina and our “Southern” politeness and manners on the highway, in lines at restaurants and when shopping are different than those shown by many visitors who come from just a few hours’ drive north.  I often advise my neighbors and friends not to let our Northern visitors’ behaviors cause them undue stress but to instead use the opportunity to gently teach and to demonstrate “proper” manners.  For example, you can say “you are most welcome” when you hold the door open for someone who doesn’t even speak to you as they whip through it.  And you can graciously let drivers out of parking lots and let others merge into your lane in front of you.  You should even move over quickly for an aggressive driver coming up behind you in the left lane, because it is just common sense plus the law requires you to let faster vehicles pass on the left.  The result of all this accommodating behavior will be less stress for all concerned.

So now go practice keeping other people from stressing you out!  In a future post I will show you how to avoid the most dangerous stress of all – – – self-induced stress!

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Have you ever been taken advantage of by a stranger who cuts in front of you in line and you wished you had spoken up?  Have there been times when someone else’s behavior was driving you crazy but you didn’t have the courage to speak to them about it?  Well here are some tips for doing just that – – – confronting someone about their behavior and doing it in a way that stands the best possible chance of getting them to change what they are doing without them getting angry at you.  At this point we assume that you have already decided that confronting the person is not inherently dangerous and that their behavior is sufficiently bothersome that you have decided to mention it to them.  Intervening now has three parts:

  • Getting their attention
  • Establishing some rapport and
  • Telling them what you want them to do.

At the office, talking with a direct report (employee) about changing their behavior can be a formal HR-related issue and it deserves some preparation and forethought – – – After all these are your coworkers and you are about to ask them to change their behavior.  But whether the person is a direct report or a peer, you’ll want to meet in a private place where both of you can speak openly. And HOW you ask for that meeting actually impacts the tone of the subsequent conversation.  Assuming you are not the person’s supervisor, try one of these ice breakers:

  • Could I ask a favor? I’d like to pick you brain on a problem I am having. Could we chat somewhere quiet for 5 minutes?
  • I need your advice on something.  Could we have a coffee this afternoon?
  • You seem to genuinely care about our organization and the people here.  So here is some constructive criticism that will make you even more effective with your peers.

Once you are in the private office meeting, these openings are often effective:

  • I think you are a sensitive, caring person.  But one behavior you sometimes exhibit when under stress is actually causing your coworkers some major stress.
  • You are doing something that is upsetting your colleagues, and I don’t believe you even realize you are doing it.
  • Have you noticed how upset other people get when you . . .
  • And the most powerful change-inducing phrase ever: When you [insert the other person’s troublesome behavior here], it makes me feel [insert how you feel here]. An example would be When you make snide comments about me behind my back, it makes me feel that you don’t appreciate the long hours and hard work I do here. It is powerful because it is unassailable.  Other people cannot argue with it because you are only saying how you personally feel.  And it is an expression of fact.  Plus you are not actually asking them to change their behavior (yet).  This is a very powerful technique and should be used with care.

Not Intentional

Bear in mind that, when confronting stress-generating people, you always want to give them the benefit of the doubt.  You want to choose your initial words based on the seriousness of the offense committed by the other person.  I always just assume people don’t wrong me intentionally; they are usually just in La La Land and are not paying attention. Example: The lady who cuts in front of you in the bank line may have thought you were completing a deposit slip and weren’t even ready to see the teller.  After all you were writing on something.  So be as polite as possible when you confront her as she walks past you, headed to the teller.  Smile and say softly “Sorry, I think I am next in line”.

The opposite end of the behavior spectrum is the person who allows a small child to cross a busy parking lot alone, weaving between stopped cars – – – now that requires some strong and immediate intervention because a life is in danger.

The three steps

Step 1 – Getting their attention:  Here are time-tested opening lines arranged from most polite to most confrontational.

  • Could I ask a favor?
  • This is going to sound weird but could you please . . .
  • My daughter used to cry just like yours, and for no apparent reason.  You might try . . .
  • On the airplane or train: Excuse me.  I think that is my seat.
  • Something odd just happened . . .
  • Actually, there is a line here – – – we are all waiting for the kiosk
  • Whoa buddy.  There is already a line here.
  • We all need to keep an eye on children so they stay safe.  Did you know your toddler daughter was crossing this line of traffic between stopped cars, all alone?
  • I don’t think you realize what you just did!  What were you thinking?
  • You could have killed someone with that move just now, sir!
  • PLEASE DON’T DO THAT!

Steps 2 and 3.

Establishing rapport and asking for a change in behavior.  These two steps are often very closely related and can happen almost in the same sentence.  Savvy conversationalists also call this “moving the conversation sideways” and then asking for the change.  You are trying to get the other person to become a little sympathetic to your needs, which makes them MUCH more likely to change what they are doing that is causing you stress.

  • This has been the day from Hell.  I am exhausted.  Could I ask you to put those heavy groceries in my minivan right there please?
  • To the policeman who just pulled you over: This day has been unbelievable.  I am late for work for the second day in a row.  What did I do wrong, officer?
  • To the spouse: Honey, my job is draining me.  Even you said you have never seen me look this exhausted.  Could we talk about some ways that we can share the household chores so I can have a little energy left for the kids and for you each night?
  • To the loud mouth in the restaurant booth behind you:  This is our first night out of the house in a month.  Could you lower your voice please so we can enjoy a quiet dinner?
  • You seem like a nice person.  Could you please . . .
  • Had a rough day?  Me too.  But can you turn down that music just a little, please?  Thanks man.
  • Our ears are ringing! Can you please take your child outside until she stops screaming?  Thanks.

In this five-part series we have examined how we can get the people around us, the people in our workplace, family, circle of friends and even strangers, to stop causing us unnecessary stress.  Next week we will conclude this mini-series on stress reduction and offer some final advice on persistently driving the unhealthy stress out of your daily life.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

In our last post we dealt with situations where we didn’t want to intervene because we questioned the impact on our personal safety of doing so. Now we will look at some situations where intervening and trying to get a person to change their behavior would be safe, but might not be the wisest choice.  We must always ask ourselves if a person’s aggravating behavior really justifies our getting personally involved in a possibly confrontational situation?   Like everyone else, you have a threshold of tolerance for bad behavior by others.  Can you just ignore the behavior this time?  Can you perhaps even use the situation to your advantage later?

Example #1:  You casually mention to a new hire an idea you have regarding cost savings.  You then learn that the new employee took that idea to your mutual boss and presented it as her own.   The boss loves the idea and publicly thanks the new employee for the great idea at the next all-hands meeting.  Assuming it would be safe to confront your colleague about the unethical behavior, should you?  Does the action rise to the threshold for you to confront the person?  Probably not.  Unless it was a HUGE cost savings for the company, you will only appear petty and selfish.  Instead, I would work into the next private conversation with that person, somewhat jokingly, that I am happy to provide additional career – enhancing ideas for her and then watch her reaction.  If she has any ethics at all she will apologize and then she’ll tell the boss that the idea was mine.  And then she owes me a major favor.  THAT debt is worth something in the big scheme of company life!

Example #2:  You are entertaining business clients. A group of 8 people seated near you at a restaurant are noisy and keeping you and your clients from enjoying a quiet evening.  They are often laughing loudly and seem oblivious to the tables of people near them.  Do you:

  • Confront the people and ask them to quiet down because, after all, you deserve a nice dining experience with your business clients?
  • Complain to the restaurant manager and ask him/her to talk to those people?
  • Begin hinting loudly to your clients and colleagues that “some people should consider the effect of their behavior on others nearby”, hoping they get the hint but secretly daring those hooligans to say anything in response.

My first choice is none of the above.  Ask to be reseated elsewhere, someplace away from that group of happy revelers.  They are obviously enjoying themselves (birthday, anniversary party, etc.) and we strongly support low-stress, happy occasions with friends and family.  Either let it go, join them, or move to a different table.   Your business clients will be impressed at your patience, tolerance and flexibility.

Example #3:  You are driving to work, in the right lane of a 4-lane highway and another driver slices into your lane in front of you, a little closer than you are comfortable with.  You didn’t need to hit your brakes but it aggravated you and you honked your horn.  A mile up the road, you and that driver are side-by-side at a traffic light and his window is down.  You want to say to him “Wow, such a nice car and it doesn’t even include turn signals in the basic package”.  You could do that.  But, it is likely to cause the other driver (especially if it is a guy and he is not alone) to confront you.  And once that happens, he will be defensive and your chance of changing his behavior drops to zero.  So don’t even bother.

My response?

  • If the other driver was trying to get over to an exit off the roadway and just didn’t take the time to signal his lane change, and he didn’t really endanger me, I will let it go.  In fact, he may begin a conversation at the traffic light with “hey man, sorry I cut you off back there.  I was about to miss my exit here.”  I have had that happen several times on the road.  And if he had waved to me to acknowledge me or thank me for not hitting his car, then I have no real issue with him at all.
  • On the other hand, if he was just being a jerk and couldn’t care less about me, then my disapproval will fall on deaf ears.  But I want him to know that I saw his stupid behavior and I choose to let it pass.  So at the light, I will look right at him until his eyes meet mine.  Then I’ll smile and look back to the front and shake my head side-to-side in the universal international expression of disbelief.  I make your point, he knows his silliness didn’t go unnoticed, and no words are needed. [Note: In Germany adding an index finger tapping your temple says “you are an idiot” and can cause a fight.]

So let’s assume we have decided we are going to confront someone about their behavior.  We have decided that it is safe, it is worth our involvement and we believe we can (and should) get the person to change.   In the next post we’ll look at some time-tested techniques for getting other people’s attention, building rapport with them and getting them to actually change their behavior so they cause less stress for you!

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

In our last post we looked at two scenarios where, even though other people were causing us stress, we did not ask them to stop because we could not do so safely.  Here is the last scenario before we move on to subject of “is it worth your time to intervene”?  What would you do here?

Scenario:

A lay-off recently occurred at your company and a week later one of the terminated people comes to the receptionist’s area at the office.   You come back from lunch and walk into the situation.  He is obviously distraught and is yelling about the unfairness of the lay-off he mentions that he now has no reason to live.  You know the guy, he seems harmless enough and you just want to end the disruption his ranting is having on the employees.  He has two young children and you just want to take him next door for a coffee and give him a chance to vent awhile.  Should you ask him to stop disrupting the office and offer a shoulder to lean on?

Answer:  Absolutely not.  Doing so would be unsafe for you and your coworkers.  When he 1)  showed back up at the office and 2) mentioned “no reason to go on living”, he crossed a line.  Anyone who seems unstable, no matter how small or harmless looking, must be considered dangerous even if you know them personally.  Crime stats are filled with disgruntled former employees who return to the company and attack former bosses and coworkers.  Quietly lock the door to the work area, have somebody call the police immediately and encourage your people to leave the area where the guy is screaming.

Something like this actually happened to me twice as a manager at a major corporation back in the 1990s.  The first time was when we terminated a PhD in electrical engineering in my organization.  He was odd, lazy and didn’t get along with our other technical staffers so at the end of his 6 month probationary period, we let him go.  He then called a company manager at home, very drunk, and mentioned that he was thinking of returning to the office with a machine gun and killing everyone there.  He asked to meet the manager and talk about his grievances.  The manager correctly declined the meeting and immediately called our security who called the local cops.  The police went to his apartment and had a chat with him and then his photo and a description of his vehicle were posted at every gate to our facility.  Nothing further came of it and we didn’t press charges.

The second time was during a contract in the Arabian Gulf during the build-up to Desert Storm (aka Gulf War 1).  I was leading a team of 105 Americans working on ships and one of them began acting strangely.  He provided (unarmed) pier security on the night shift (6 PM to 6 AM) to prevent pilferage and he complained to coworkers that when he returned to his hotel room each morning, his belongings had been moved around.  He said that the CIA was routinely searching his room!  Nobody else took him seriously but when he started leaving razor knives on storage crates every 50 feet down the pier “in case somebody jumps me” his behavior started to stress the other workers.

These same coworkers warned me that they considered him mentally unbalanced so I asked him to join me for a friendly, private walk-and-chat.  He told me that, beyond any doubt, the CIA was “after him”.  I told him that, were I him, I would take that as a serious threat and I added that maybe the CIA had him confused him with some other person.  He obviously had not thought of that and while he was pondering the ramifications I told him I thought the best thing we could do was to get him out of the Arab Gulf immediately.  He agreed and was on the flight to Amsterdam the next evening, and then home to California’s Long Beach Shipyard.  In this case, I was forced to intervene with an unstable person because I was responsible for the job getting done and the person’s behavior was stressing the rest of the team.  But always do this gently, with kid gloves. Do not be confrontational.

OK, assuming a person’s behavior is causing you stress and you have decided you can intervene without risking your personal safety.  But should you?  In the next post we will learn some proven techniques for determining what type of stressor we are dealing with and how to then get them to stop stressing us out!

In the last post we identified five common types of stressful behaviors:  Day Dreaming, Comparing, Time Traveling, Gut Reacting and Grade Schooling.  Before we get into details about how we will change these people’s aggravating behaviors, we want to encourage you to first use some common sense about deciding if you should undertake the task at all.  You are not the behavior police and some people deserve a WIDE berth.  You should only intervene when you are not risking your personal safety and the person’s behavior is so aggravating that you cannot just let it pass and when you think by confronting the person you might actually have some reasonable chance of getting them to change their behavior.

So in every case, for any type of stress-causing behavior other people exhibit, the three questions you must ask yourself (in this order) before you intervene are

  1. Is it safe to confront this person about their behavior?
  2. Is it worth my effort to confront this person? and
  3. Do I have any real chance of changing their behavior?”

The answer to all three should be “YES” before you intervene.  So let’s look at a few scenarios and see if they get past the first of our three criteria for intervention – – – our personal safety.

Scenario #1

On your way to work in Los Angeles, a car full of men in their early 20s, with shaved heads and their bodies covered in tattoos, stops beside you at a traffic light with their music blaring.  The music is deafening and they appear not to even notice the discomfort it is causing in people nearby.  Do you get involved?

Answer: Are you serious?  Just asking them to turn it down could get you shot.  And you have ZERO chance of changing their future behavior.  So control your testosterone boys (women are smart enough to not even CONSIDER intervening here), keep your eyes forward and drive on.  That was an easy example.  Now for one that is not-so-easy.

Scenario #2

You and your office colleagues are standing in line to order at a fast food restaurant.  A guy near you is acting odd— standing too close to you, fidgeting a lot, looking around nervously and mumbling to himself.  He seems to be in a hurry to get his food but his behavior is annoying.  Do you ask him in a stern voice to step back a bit?

Answer:  No.  This guy is possibly mentally unstable or on drugs or both.  Very odd people should trigger a “flee” response in you. I would just walk out of the restaurant, to my car, and wait for him to leave.  Do not confront someone who may be on drugs and/or mentally on a different planet.  Asking him to “give me a little room, please” might trigger a bizarre response.  Don’t become a statistic.

In our next post we will see an all-too-common scenario, the corporate lay-off, and a disgruntled coworker whose behavior  stresses his colleagues.  Would you ask him to stop?  You may be surprised at the correct answer.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation