Posts Tagged ‘mack mckinney’

We all have stress in our lives and a little stress can be a healthy thing.  Stress is caused by stressors, defined by BusinessDictionary  as either 1. A physical, psychological, or social force that puts real or perceived demands on the body, emotions, mind, or spirit of an individual –OR- 2. A biological, chemical, or physical factor that can cause temporary or permanent harm to an ecosystem, environment, or organism.

Stressors are like bullies: We can usually handle one or two but when confronted by too many of them at one time we may lose the ability to overcome them.  Heck, just recognizing stressors can be difficult and sometimes even counter-intuitive. Did you know that pleasant, desirable, rewarding things can also cause stress!?!? In 1967, psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe suspected there was a link between events in your life and your level of stress.  They looked at 43 life events and after thousands of interviews and surveys they ranked each life event for its contribution to stress.  Some of the events that made the list are surprising: A change in health of family member (including an improvement), a change in financial state (including suddenly receiving a lot of money), and even an outstanding personal achievement!  This is because our bodies react automatically and biochemically, way down at the cellular level, not only to bad changes in our life situation but to any changes.

To measure the overall stress using the Holmes-Rahe scale, determine which events/situations in the past year apply to you and take note of the associated number of “Life Change Units”.  Add them up and the resulting total score will give you a rough idea of how much stress you are experiencing.   (The table and explanation shown here is from Wikipedia at  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holmes_and_Rahe_stress_scale but the same table is available from multiple locations on the Internet and elsewhere.  Newer lists may also be available as part of more modern studies.).  This first table is for adults:

Life event

Life change units

Death of a spouse 100
Divorce 73
Marital separation 65
Imprisonment 63
Death of a close family member 63
Personal injury or illness 53
Marriage 50
Dismissal from work 47
Marital reconciliation 45
Retirement 45
Change in health of family member 44
Pregnancy 40
Sexual difficulties 39
Gain a new family member 39
Business readjustment 39
Change in financial state 38
Death of a close friend 37
Change to different line of work 36
Change in frequency of arguments 35
Major mortgage 32
Foreclosure of mortgage or loan 30
Change in responsibilities at work 29
Child leaving home 29
Trouble with in-laws 29
Outstanding personal achievement 28
Spouse starts or stops work 26
Begin or end school 26
Change in living conditions 25
Revision of personal habits 24
Trouble with boss 23
Change in working hours or conditions 20
Change in residence 20
Change in schools 20
Change in recreation 19
Change in church activities 19
Change in social activities 18
Minor mortgage or loan 17
Change in sleeping habits 16
Change in number of family reunions 15
Change in eating habits 15
Vacation 13
Christmas 12
Minor violation of law 11

Score of 300+: Serious risk of illness.

Score of 150-299+: Moderate risk of illness (reduced by 30% from the above risk).

Score 150-: Only a slight risk of illness.

A different scale has been developed for non-adults.

Life Event

Life Change Units

Getting married 95
Unwed pregnancy 100
Death of parent 100
Acquiring a visible deformity 80
Divorce of parents 90
Fathering an unwed pregnancy 70
Jail sentence of parent for over one year 70
Marital separation of parents 69
Death of a brother or sister 68
Change in acceptance by peers 67
Pregnancy of unwed sister 64
Discovery of being an adopted child 63
Marriage of parent to stepparent 63
Death of a close friend 63
Having a visible congenital deformity 62
Serious illness requiring hospitalization 58
Failure of a grade in school 56
Not making an extracurricular activity 55
Hospitalization of a parent 55
Jail sentence of parent for over 30 days 53
Breaking up with boyfriend or girlfriend 53
Beginning to date 51
Suspension from school 50
Becoming involved with drugs or alcohol 50
Birth of a brother or sister 50
Increase in arguments between parents 47
Loss of job by parent 46
Outstanding personal achievement 46
Change in parent’s financial status 45
Accepted at college of choice 43
Being a senior in high school 42
Hospitalization of a sibling 41
Increased absence of parent from home 38
Brother or sister leaving home 37
Addition of third adult to family 34
Becoming a full-fledged member of a church 31
Decrease in arguments between parents 27
Decrease in arguments with parents 26
Mother or father beginning work 26

Score of 300+: Serious risk of illness.

Score of 150-299+: Moderate risk of illness (reduced by 30% from the above risk).

Score 150-: Only a slight risk of illness.

The Kent Center has adopted this scale in their stress assessment and treatment practice.  (We found them online and have no affiliation with them.)  Working with mental health professionals is almost always a good idea.  If you perform a self-assessment of stress and the result concerns you, seek professional counseling (in-person and face-to-face if at all possible) because untreated stress can easily lead to physical illness and depression.  And then things can get very serious because depression cannot always be self-diagnosed or self-treated.  Worse yet, severe depression is potentially lethal.

But if you decide that your stress level is sufficiently low, and composed of only a few distinct and easily identified causes/events, you may want to tackle them yourself.  To make this stress-busting effort effective, be methodical.  Spend some time thinking about each stressor in your life.  Here are some tips:

  1. Make a Master List of Stressors and list each stress-causing event/situation separately
  2. Have a plan to deal with each one, independent of the others
  3. The plan for each one should include the following:
    • Identification of what you see as the root cause of the stress (OK all you Mental Health Professionals, don’t email me: I know we mere mortals cannot always determine the root cause of stress but this is a start)
    • A descriptive vision of what your life would be like without this stress (you being worry-free, happy at work, etc.)
    • Who else is involved besides you, and what each person will do to help correct the situation
    • Actions you and the other people involved will take today, this week, this month and this year

The human brain does not come with a user’s manual.  Get professional counseling to help with high stress scores, depression or with any thoughts about harming yourself or others.  Don’t mess with stress!

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Leader driven Harmony #31: Sleeping on the Job…

by Mack McKinney on July 1, 2011

… Yes, You may be doing it, and not even know it!

When airline pilots overfly the airport by 100 miles, it is a big deal.  And when air traffic controllers nod off in the tower it makes international news.  What about when YOU are a little groggy from 8-11 every day?  After all, our society lives on coffee and isn’t everyone somewhat fog-brained every day.  No.  They are not.  And you cannot afford to be either.  Your organization hired you to THINK and you cannot do that when chronically tired.

The brain not only performs poorly at key tasks when deeply fatigued, it also makes-up things, twisting things you experience and inventing entirely new things.  And parts of your brain cannot differentiate between things imagined and things experienced!  So that means you can “see” things happen that didn’t actually happen at all, but you will swear they did.  Driving through Texas in the wee hours of the morning on a deserted road I suddenly saw an infant sitting in the center of my lane.  I locked-up the brakes (which panicked the other driver dozing in the passenger’s seat) and slid right over that child.  We jumped out of the truck and looked behind the truck to see  . . .  nothing.  In the Texas moonlight there was nothing there but my skid marks.  In my fatigue I had imagined the entire thing.  I can assure you that I was “awake” for an hour or so after that, heart thumping and hands shaking, at the motel where we stopped shortly after this episode. But the effect was short lived – – – after the slug of adrenalin had been metabolized, which caused me a little trouble going to sleep, when I did drift off, I slept for about 12 hours.

Sleep Apnea

I have been in business meetings where one person on my team heard one thing and everyone else heard something entirely different.  The odd-man-out was known to be grouchy, irritable and he was very overweight.  In retrospect, I would bet he had sleep apnea and was sleeping poorly.  I predict a time, within 5 years, when sleep apnea is seen as the productivity-robber that it is and is therefore proactively diagnosed and treated.  For instance, here in 2011 sleepy driving is seen as an annoyance to be treated with energy drinks.  (This is in spite of evidence that driving while fatigued (DWF) has been shown to impair decision making and motor skills even more than 3-4 stiff drinks!)

The root cause of most sleepy driving is sleep apnea where the throat closes and the person never enters deep sleep.  Sleep apnea sufferers typically do not know they have the disease (although their sleep partners know they snore and sometimes choke or gasp) and so they never get treated for it.  Treatments range from simple mouth appliances that hold the lower jaw forward during sleep to CPAP machines that force air into the lungs to the ultimate – – – surgery to remove/strengthen the soft palate and throat tissues so they don’t flop around in there.

The bottom line is this:  if you are not well rested at work, you cannot make optimum decisions and your bosses will begin to question your judgment.  You may also be irritable and/or short tempered and your coworkers may try to avoid you.  All this can gave a negative impact on your career.  So if you find that you MUST drink coffee throughout the morning “just to function” , or if your sleep partner says you snore or gasp or choke, or if you don’t wake up bright-eyed and ready to take on the world, you have a problem: you are either not getting enough sleep (quantity) or you are getting poor sleep (quality).  Try to get at least 7-9 hours each night for a week and if you are still tired, see a sleep clinic about a sleep study.  It requires just one night, a nurse monitors your sleep, and it can save your life because undiagnosed sleep apnea can destroy part of your heart in just a few years!  And long before that, it will have destroyed your career.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

A highly creative team can make or break a company and they require special care and feeding (literally).  The complaints coming from creative people we have worked with through the years fall into three buckets of “frustrations”:  mundane, daily frustrations; professional frustrations, and management-induced frustrations.  Let’s look at each one and see how we can prevent it.

  1. Mundane, daily frustrations – These include heavy traffic lengthening the daily commute, difficulty finding a parking spot, and not having change for the soft drink machine.  So managers, allow people to work from home one day each week.  Also encourage carpooling to ease the parking challenge and reward carpoolers with gas money.  Lastly, put healthy drinks in the machines and let the company pay for them (select the “coinless” setting in the machines or buy your own machines).  One firm we know did this and also keeps a large kitchen fully stocked with instant soups and other fast foods, all free to employees.
  2. Professional frustrations – Engineers never seem to have requirements that they can use.  They always want better requirements.  And your engineers do deserve the most solid requirements you can generate, blessed by the end users of the system.  So make that happen.  Visit multiple users and get the system specification, contract and the requirements aligned.  Also, scientists always seem to need better tools and equipment.  This gets expensive fast but you should meet their needs whenever it makes good business sense.  But do two things here:
    • tie new tools to higher output, faster analyses/studies, etc. and
    • require the scientists to triage their needs so you work on filling the most crucial needs first.
  3. Management-induced frustrations – and here there are several:
    • Mismatched expectations, when management thinks they have asked for one thing and the staff provides something different.  Usually this is caused by management thinking they have hired mind readers.  Managers, be overly thorough in your assignments and get confirmation by asking “Now, what are you going to go do, and why?”  You’ll sometimes be amazed at the answer you get!
    • Great inventions and technologies get embedded in technologies and systems, but the project gets cancelled.  Technical/creative types understandably want to see their ideas take wing and launch!  So have an ‘idea greenhouse” where orphaned ideas can await a new home.  And reward people for planting wild ideas there (a year’s membership in the World Futures Society at www.wfs.org or a trip to a super science symposium or a great museum).  Let people know you value great ideas, even (especially?) those ideas that are ahead of their time!  And to prevent premature death of a project, design your projects as carefully as you design your systems (learn to do this in the Project Dominance course offered at Solid Thinking)
    • Hidden assumptions or unvoiced expectations cause the end user to reject the system.  Usually this is because management failed to get user buy-in during the design and development of the system.  Remember that just meeting the specifications is not enough – – – management must seek out representative users and get their vocal support for the system as it is being conceived, developed, built and fielded.  Anything less is risky.

Lastly, here are some Do’s and Don’ts for leaders managing creative teams:

  • Don’t accept problems brought to you by staffers, unless each problem comes with options and a recommendation.  This is how you build creative thinkers (and a replacement for yourself).
  • Don’t belittle noble failures.  Instead, celebrate them with luncheons and rewards (a half-day off, a dinner at a nice restaurant, etc.)  Make it a fun thing.  Build an accepting environment for new ideas, whether they find a home or not.
  • Don’t overlook talent you have within your organization(s).  You may have mission expertise in your organization that you know nothing about.  One of our clients has a “Mission Experience Library” of people with military experience.  If they need someone familiar with aircraft maintenance, for instance, they can query the database and find that ex-sergeant wrench-turner who can provide input on the new automated technical order system being contemplated.

“Take care of the people and the people will take care of the jobs.” (source unknown)

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Whenever listening to a public speaker, ask yourself two things: 1) Does the message make sense without the skilled speaker’s delivery and 2) Were the key points crystal clear? Make sure that (you)

  1. Remove the oratory (the effect of the speaker’s delivery style and voice).  You can either do this mentally or you can find a transcript of the speech.  Do the words still make sense when just written, not spoken?
  2. If the key messages were not clear, was that intentional?  Could simpler, more commonly used words have made the message unmistakable?  If so, then why wasn’t it said that way?  Perhaps it was worded so each member of the audience could interpret the speech individually by “hearing what they wanted to hear?”

The danger is being lulled into complacency.  Quite a large number of reasonably intelligent people adopt “selective hearing” when a speaker or writer uses ambiguous words: They often see/hear what they want to see/hear, either pro or con.  And less-educated people, who mistakenly question their own ability to understand “complex” subjects and assume the unfamiliar words surely must make sense to somebody, fall into the same trap.  This is partly because everyone is busy managing their daily affairs, working and . . . . just . . . living.  It is soooo easy to defer to the “ruling class” in the State capitol and/or Washington DC – – – the professional economists, strategists, politicians and lobbyists.  But many things that happen in the State and US capitols impact the business environment and, therefore, the company where you work.

The Danger for Our Country:

This “letting the experts handle complex things” is an age-old problem in every country and is especially risky in any democracy or republic, regardless of your political persuasion.  Howard Troxler said this temptation to be lazy is very dangerous in last week’s editorial “I’m Too Busy is not an optionin a Virginian Pilot editorial on June 13th (an outstanding newspaper, BTW).  He says, in part,

We should pay more attention to what Washington is doing. We should pay more attention to what the state legislature is doing. We should pay more attention to what City Hall and the School Board are doing. If we don’t, then the same bunch in Washington will keep right on driving the country off the cliff. . . . Paying attention is not something optional that you can get around-to one day. Tell everybody you know.”

The Danger for Your Company

There are clear parallels in the business world:  It is easy to get tunnel-vision, to adopt a narrow focus on only your little part of the organization.  Don’t do this.  Know the big picture.  Listen closely to management’s speeches but be sure you know what matters most in your organization (cash flow, orders backlog, etc.).  In any company be sure you understand at least four things:

  1. How the financial community rates your firm (if publicly traded) and what they are saying about your management (good, bad, strong vision, confused, etc.)
  2. The company’s long term strategic plan and how your team (and job) fits into that plan
  3. How your company generates cash
  4. What your team’s financial objectives are for the month, quarter and year (in other words, what your boss signed you up to accomplish)

If you are intimidated by financial terms and statements, here is a great $20 booklet “Guide to Finance Basics for Managers” from Harvard Business Review at. Remember – – – what you don’t know can hurt you!

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Leader driven Harmony #28: Tell People What You Need

by Mack McKinney on June 10, 2011

Do you find that people are frustrating you?  Disappointing you?  Has this been going on for a long time and in all walks of your life:  family, job, hobbies, neighborhood or church?  Do you wish people would respect you more?  Understand you better?

Do you need more time to yourself?  Or maybe you need less time to yourself because you are lonely.

Do you need more attention from a friend or lover, because you feel isolated or shut out?  Or do you need less attention from them because you feel smothered.

Do you want more guidance and coaching from a boss?  Or do you want less help and more autonomy in doing your job?

Do you wish you had a magic way to make people “get it”, to cause people to do what you need them to do?  Then here is the magic trick.  Lean in closely.  Here is the secret:  JUST SAY SO.  It is often that easy to get others to do what you want.  Just tell them.  No beating around the bush, no mincing words.  Just smile, be reasonably diplomatic if you can and tell them what you need.  The important thing is to speak up, even if you don’t say it exactly right.  Trust me; you’ll get better at it the more you practice.

Most people want to be helpful.  They like to please others.  Good Samaritans abound.  Most likely your friends and relatives and business associates are polite to other people.  They probably wouldn’t mind being nicer to you.  But all too often they don’t know what to do. There are no mind readers in the real world.  You must tell them.

Start the conversation any way you like.

  • I have a favor to ask…
  • I wonder if I could ask you to do something for me…
  • I have an odd request…

And then use the magic phrase:  When you [do something] I feel [a certain way].  Here are two common examples:

  • When you finish my sentences for me, I feel you are impatient with me.  But I need the time to think when I am talking.  Please be patient.  You think faster than me.
  • When you change the subject immediately after I say something I feel you aren’t really listening. I feel you are just using the time while I am talking to assemble your next statement.  Please at least acknowledge what I have just said so I know you head me.

If people keep ignoring you or interrupting you or . . . doing whatever to annoy you, you have to ask yourself if you are helping cause the problem.  And if you have never told them how you feel or how you would like them to change their behavior, you should not be at all surprised when they disappoint you.  Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result is one clinical definition of insanity.  So tell the people with whom you regularly interact, bosses, family members, friends and others, what you need them to do (or not do) to make your life go smoother with less drama and less frustration.  Otherwise do not complain about how you are being treated.  Speak up or shut up!

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Guys, have you ever found the zipper down on your pants and realized, because you haven’t been to the rest room in hours, that it must have been that way for a long time?  And you strongly suspect other people may have noticed but didn’t tell you.  Ladies have you ever casually glanced in a mirror only to smile and find lipstick smeared on your teeth?  And in either case you wished you’d had someone around who cared more about your appearance than your feelings, didn’t you?  You needed someone who would tell you the truth no matter what.  You needed a truth-teller.

Do you wish you had had a friend or family member who would have told you years ago when those first few excess pounds started to creep onto your waistline?  You might have been annoyed to hear it but a comment of “Munching on a few too many ice cream bars these days old friend?” would have saved you all the dieting you must now endure.  You needed a truth-teller.

Truth Teller

A truth- teller is more than just a friend.  And it might not even be a friend.  Some of the best advice you will get through the years will come from people who either don’t know you or know you and dislike you.  Abraham Lincoln was running for political office and his opponent called him a horse’s ass.  When told of this and asked what he planned to do about it Lincoln is rumored to have said something like “My opponent is a smart man – – – I think I had better go home and look in the mirror”.

But a friend who is also a truth-teller is especially helpful.  Close friends know your weaknesses.  They know the things you intentionally avoid.  They know the things that routinely blind side you.  This is the person who will tell you straight up that you have terrible breath. (By the way anytime a stranger offers you a breath mint, take it.  They typically aren’t doing it to be polite.  Your breath stinks.  Thank them, take the mint and make a mental note that they may be a good candidate for a truth teller.)

Note that your truth teller friends may be people who want you to reciprocate and to also be their truth tellers but maybe not.  Not every ego is strong enough to benefit from a truth-telling friend.  The best relationship is, of course, when either person can be completely open and honest about the other’s shortcomings or imminent mistakes.  Just make sure that you cultivate several truth-tellers in your life.  You do this by asking them to tell you when you are about to make a mistake such as risking the date of a life time just to watch ten more minutes of a ball game.  You want them to tell you when you are about to risk a great job by responding childishly to a perceived injustice at work.  Such a friend is priceless.  Try to find several, make sure they are always comfortable telling you the whole, hard truth and be sure to always thank them for doing so even if your feelings have been hurt a little.

The old saying…

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”

… is true!

And only a truth-telling friend can provide the prevention. Otherwise life will provide the cure and it is seldom pleasant!

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

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

Week in Review: May 02 – May 06, 2011

by admin on May 8, 2011

Use a Manifesto to build your brand, grow your list & sell more books

by Roger Parker on May 2, 2011

If you’re a business owner or an author using a sample chapter of your book, a report, or a tip sheet as a list-building incentive, consider replacing it with a manifesto. A well-written manifesto can do a better job of helping you build your brand and grow your list, paving the way for you to sell more books.

Manifestos are better list builders because they take a stand. Because manifestos strongly advocate a position, and are usually passionately written, they operate on an emotional level, tapping into the power of commitment. Read more…

Project Reality Check #20: Beware of Addiction to Agile

by Gary Monti on May 3, 2011

Can Agile cause damage?

Yes.

Is Agile a good method?

Yes.

How can both statements be true?

Let’s look.

First, let me say I have a great respect for RAD, Extreme Programming, Agile, etc., because the methods reflect acceptance of and dealing with a common reality. Read more…

As the Paradigm Shifts #D: Dignity, Denial and Detachment

by Rosie Kuhn on May 4, 2011

Whether self-employed, employed by organizations, whether retired or unemployed, we all engage with companies and organizations that support us or we support them. In our interactions with these organizations, what we are wanting is to experience qualities of dignity, first and foremost. This means being treated as a sovereign individual of value, worthy of respect. I want people to communicate authentically, with curiosity and interest. Read more…

Flexible Focus #52: A sense of Significance

by William Reed on May 5, 2011

Stephen Covey provided the world with a significant dimension of perspective when he proposed the Time Management Grid in his book First Things First (1994), using a 2×2 Matrix juxtaposing Urgency vs Importance. Though it has now become common parlance, it was revolutionary at the time when Covey made this distinction, and plotted it in four Quadrants. Read more…

Leader Driven Harmony #23: Five Stressful Behaviors and How to STOP them – Part 3

by Mack McKinney on May 6, 2011

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? Read more…