LifeSaving: Pay Attention!

What if you treated every lesson, every interaction, as if YOU were responsible for learning a “LifeSaving” procedure or technique! You would pay attention! You would learn as if you were supposed to be the teacher, and a life might depend upon it, and you are here to share your wisdom or your learning. Your teaching can save a life! Your sharing can be used to reduce the pain and anxiety which may be suffered by a friend, or a family member, or even by a stranger who hears your information.

Do not underestimate the power of what you are here in this life to learn and to share! You are a Master and you learning and sharing your lessons is important, perhaps critical! Even lifesaving! So you must pay attention to those moments and experiences in life where you are confronted by the “challenge” and the struggle to find an answer. Sharing your struggle and your answer is an act of service to humanity. Making the effort to articulate your learning can benefit both your audience AND yourself. By reviewing and speaking about your lesson, you will gain perspective and so insight into your learned challenge. It takes work to reach deep within and to find the words that will resonate with the your communication partner. Consider whether you are telling your story for “You” or are feeling the benefit more for your partner. Knowing your audience’s needs is good and will help you to be clear.

You do not always know how your story will be “LifeSaving” or where in the world it will find its way to work this magic. Your story may rise to the surface because you feel the “Need” to share this with your friend, perhaps, for their sake or perhaps because you are still processing your learning. As an example, your story may be related to an experience where you reduced your anger by forgiving a difficult interaction rather than stubbornly fighting for your position while sacrificing a relationship. You were able to let go of your stubborn willfulness after realizing that there are other ways to look at a situation and your partner in this argument has come at their opinion from surviving a very different set of personal challenges. Their perspective may not be in agreement with your beliefs but your strength and awareness helps you to understand their differing point of view. You have bumped up against their belief as a lesson. You might not “know” their idea of truth but you fighting with their ego reminds you that important, though difficult, learning can occur for the person who is willing and open to appreciate the other opinion, even if you can not agree.

Do not be lazy. Be meticulous. Be vigilant. Even the smallest interactions can be a blessing. If you walk through your life experience in a cloud of distraction or unconcern then you may be missing the point of a critical learning and life changing moment. Reach out to connect with people, even the people who you may be “triggered” by, for this is the only way to gain perspective on living. Wearing blinders or avoiding contact by watching TV may slow down your experiencing life in the ways that can enhance your understanding leading to your finding joy in life or maybe even your enlightenment.

Your stories based on your experience have great value, especially when you are willing to share them. Your developing the skills to communicate your experiences clearly and when they “fit” the interaction will elevate your level of service. This takes practice. This will require you to develop your confidence and your intuition, as you read the specific demands of your partner in communication. If your “gut” tells you that you must tell a certain story, at a certain time, to a certain person, YOU may be sharing wisdom that will save a life!

Do not mumble or speak too softly. Your story must be clear and loud enough to hear! Project your wisdom and own it. Whether you “know” it or not, you are a Master!

Blessings to you for experiencing life’s challenges and your willingness to share your story. Just the act of caring enough to take time to share may serve a need that you may not fully realize. A very important consideration is to allow your communication partner to tell THEIR story. You give a great gift by receiving their communicated lesson.

For resources on communication, connecting, and other lifesaving techniques, consider the supportive community, Masters of the Journey.

Sharing Wisdom and an Act of Service

In our spiritual community, Masters of the Journey, we practice a “Triad” process. This is a small group sharing of experience and the wisdom gleaned from living through the challenges of life. The purpose of the Triad is to gather three people into a conversation based around the “story” of one participant known as the “storyteller.” We are all “Masters” and have wisdom to share. If you have lived your life and survived to this age, you have learned from experiences and are moving along your “path” on your pilgrimage through this life.

As an example, the “storyteller” may share a story regarding a treasured experience with a personal mentor. It may have been a special college professor or a wise uncle/aunt or supportive coach who offered you some life changing information that set you on an important direction at one of the cross roads of your life. The lesson was a personal one yet it holds wisdom that can be used by other fellow travelers. The willingness of the “storyteller” to share and the active listening by the two other members of the Triad can make this a moment of “service” for all involved.

In the Triad process, the “storyteller” offers an experience which is heard by a focused “witness.” The second member of the Triad quietly and with focused intent, listens to the story. Using strong listening skills including good eye contact and “open” body language seeks to fully experience the story. Little or no verbal feedback is offered unless a clarifying question is required. The “witness” offers appreciation at the end of the 3-5 minute story. It may be appropriate to communicate what the value of this story has been for the witness. (A key is for the “Witness” to not interrupt or offer their own story but to allow the speaker to share their perspective until offered feedback at he completion of their story.)

The third member of the Triad is the “Observer” who focuses on watching both the “Storyteller” and the “Witness.” The “Observer” feels for the connection and rapport between the “Storyteller” and the “Witness.” When the “Observer” offers feedback, she/he may share information regarding the skills of the “Storyteller” to communicate their story and also may give feedback regarding the skills of the “Witness” to fully serve by observing the story. These are skills that carry over into relationships in life beyond the “Triad” process.

The act of witnessing is a powerful act of service. Focused listening and demonstrated “caring” can be therapeutic for the storyteller. In my training as a counselor for children, the theory of psychotherapeutic counseling was often less important that the act of “connecting” with the child. When these children were fully heard, respected, and Loved (Cared about) by the counselor the positive bond was created and the therapy could be effective. Outside of counseling, each of us can be of service by developing our skills to listen more fully, connect with the speaker, and then to share the wisdom of the experience of this sharing. The simple but powerful act of sharing a story and having it fully appreciated by the witness creates moments of learning for both sides of this experience. If you believe that we are actually “one” with all other living beings, then the respect and appreciation for another person’s story is a deep respect for yourself and the Divine Spirit within you (and every other soul.)

Do not take it lightly. Your witnessing of the lesson learned raises the consciousness of all the souls which are participating. Raising consciousness in all is the purpose which we all share. This common bond brings us closer and we can find the connections which offer positive learnings. Treat others with the respect of knowing that they are part of a much larger consciousness and though it may be difficult to see, every person has God within them. We may benefit from the raising of consciousness so we may better “remember” that we are all one and that each one of us is a Master with the wisdom of the Divine Spirit within our souls.

Blessings to you and all the fellow pilgrims you, and serve, along your path.

Namaste.

Masters of the Journey’s website and connections are found at: www.mastersofthejourney.com

The Art of Being Present

What is the advantage in being Present? How do you achieve the state of Presence? In moving along your path in life, when should you strive for “being fully in the Moment?”

Have you ever had the telephone conversation or the face to face meeting with another person who was clearly “somewhere else” and not tracking your communication? In our busy world, this happens all the time. You have to repeat yourself or you feel insecure that you were not fully heard or understood. You have to question your communication partner to “check in” and to know that they were not so distracted that they did not receive your important communication. People clearly have a great deal on their mind and they are being torn away by the invasion of of text messages or other manifestations of interrupting technology. We are so “plugged in” that it is difficult to invest fully in the conversation with the person in front of you or on the other end of the telephone. A client may not feel fully connected with you if you are lost in another thought and this may cause a transaction to go poorly. Your friend or family member may get frustrated with your lack of focus and may lash out at you in frustration. These situations happen all to frequently. Many people do not have the awareness, and then the control, to be able to quiet the distractions and really focus on the present moment and this is sad.

Missing the moment that will never come again is a loss that you can not ever recover!  There are times when you can multi-task but human interaction is very important and should not be short changed by your distracted and disrespectful pursuit of multiple thoughts or activities. Remember when this happened to you and how you felt this lack of respect and consideration! If for no other reason, you will miss out on the most joyful and satisfying moments in life if you are not present!

Achieving the state of “Presence” requires that you reduce internal and, if possible, external distractions. Begin by NOT thinking of your answer or response before your communication partner finishes their statement. Listen! Listen with ALL of your senses. If you require clarification, ask supportive “open ended questions.” Make eye contact. It is rude to not focus your vision upon the person who is speaking. If possible, feel the emotion of what is being said. Use your intuition to read “between the lines.” There are many times when you may need to clear your mind and relax your body to reduce internal distractions and this may benefit from learning how to meditate and to find yourself in the present moment. If you can be present, you will be happier and healthier. Your relationships can improve. You can find interpersonal success more easily.

Being fully present can become more a positive habit if you practice and learn more about what is distracting to you, AND, learn to let this go. Remember, that the respect you show in listening and interacting can be beneficial for personal learning and will improve your relationships. It will even SAVE YOU TIME in the long run. Try it and see for yourself.

If you manage other people or want positive outcomes with your family, learning to be fully present is a mandatory skill and life enhancing experience.

Blessings to you on your path and watch most carefully each foot step on your journey toward consciousness.

More information and support can be found at: www.mastersofthejourney.com and our Facebook page www.facebook.com/mastersofthejourney

Art of Listening

Is Communication Important?
Is Connection important?
Is Listening important to relationships?

Is there an art to effective communication?

At the core of good communication are two essential skills:
The art of offering a clear communication
The art of Receiving a communication

In this Blog, we focus of the Art of Listening:

Good Listening can involve:
Hearing what is being communicated but also of importance to receiving an interpersonal communication is the use of other primary senses. I will explain why, seeing helps hearing. Also why, feeling helps hearing. Even smelling and tasting can play a role in experiencing a communication.

There is a philosophy which believes that we have two ears and one mouth because we are supposed to listen twice as much.

Hearing is much more than just registering the speaker’s words. It can also include: tone of voice, volume, choice of wording, pace of speaking, pauses and silences, and the unspoken content or what is left out of the communication.

Seeing: Non-verbal cues: gestures, body language, facial expressions, breathing patterns, the speakers presentation are things which we “see” consciously or unconsciously. Very essential to good communication is encouraging eye contact and attention. Being focused and “present” without distracting thoughts in the witness/listner will allow for better connection and comprehension of the communication.

Feeling: Will include listening between the words and feeling the impact of the words which are used. Interpreting the hearing and the visuals that are presented. If physical contact is a part of the communication, feeling your partner’s intent through pressure or movement can be a feeling which communicates volumes.

Humans use less of the sensations of smell and taste in communication but these subtle cues can also add to the experience of the communication. Consider how perfume or body oder add to the experience. Or, how the smells of the environment can enhance or detract from communication like baking bread or the pungent smell of antiseptic in a hospital room. And, what does the taste of a shared meal do to add to a communication.

Perhaps the most important skill in the Art of Listening is to be “Present.” This is easier said than done. Being “Present” involves using your focus to minimize your internal distractions. Avoid extraneous thoughts or the habit of finding an answer to what you hear until it is your turn to add to the conversation. Even if you get defensive, it is better to hear the speaker out and ask clarifying question to make sure you fully understand what is being said so you can answer most effectively. Emotions can cause “knee-jerk” reactions which often cause more harm than good in a possibly tense conversation. It would be better, in most situations, if you treat your communication partners as if they were a very important figure like: the Pope, or the President, or even God. With this intended reverence in listening to your speaker, you have the best chance of “Hearing” at all levels to get the very most from the communication. In other words, listen to your communication partner as well or better than you would want to be heard.

To sum up, the Art of Listening is more than registering the words you may hear. Read between the lines and feel what is really being communicated. Use every one of your 5 physical senses and your intuition (or gut feelings) to take in the full communication. And finally, in the Art of Listening give the greatest gift of respect which one person can offer another by being fully focused and present with the love and appreciation that comes from the deepest honor the “Sharing” that you are being gifted to receive.

Coaching and training are available at the Stress Education Center, www.dstress.com.

Key to Communication: Really Listening!

Successful communication in interpersonal relationships can be very important in business and in one’s personal life. This is not difficult to realize as a concept but it can be difficult to achieve. There are many variables that help a communication or make communication go terribly wrong. Some of these variables you can control and some you can not. An example, you may be very focus and clear regarding an important topic of conversation you may have with a client but you can not control the client’s focus or state of mind. They may be busy on “other” things and can not “engage” or focus on what you are saying.

So let’s discuss some of the variables that you can understand and control. Two of the most important ones in interpersonal communication are Timing and Listening. There are many other variables which we will discuss in other articles but let’s start with these two variables.

Timing is key in every aspect of relationships. If one side is distracted or unavailable, it is not fortuitous for the success of a communication. Scheduling the time and getting an agreement regarding this appointment are essential when your communication is critical. If you can not create an environment that is relatively undistracted and conducive to an appropriate exchange then your important message may be missed. Find the best time and space for you to communicate. At the beginning of the conversation, it may be best to ask again if this is a “good time” to talk, knowing that just because your partner has shown up at the appointment it does not mean that they are ready and undistracted. So, checkin. Make sure the table is clear and they are ready to participate. If not, and your communication is of critical value, you may have to reschedule or risk the failure of the process.

Perhaps even more importantly, is the skill to listen! It is easier said than done, but an essential key to great communication is not speaking but listening to your partner. If you interrupt, or think ahead, or find an emotional tangent to distract you, or simply lose your focus, your partner will sense your lack of “presence” and be distracted in a way which may make the meeting destined to failure. Use all of your senses to focus and to listen to what your communication partner is saying. Make eye contact. Relax your breathing to encourage your partner to relax. Respect your partners words and their opinion even if you may disagree. Do not interrupt! Keep your mouth closed until you can assist your partner by asking and “open ended question” to help clarify what they are communicating. Restate what you have heard to make sure you are very clear about what they are attempting to convey to you. Only after restatement and permission to response, is it a good time to find your appropriate answer. Show some gratitude to your partner. As a reminder, shouting someone else down does show intelligence, maturity or respect for a positive outcome.

Hint, for the best possible communication: Listen to your communication partner as if you respected this relationship so much it would be as if you were listening to the most honored elder or even, as if you were sitting in the presence of God. (Some people believe that you can find the perfect spirit of the divine in everyone, if you look for it.)

It has been said that we were given two ears and one mouth so we could listen twice as much. This is critical in personal relationships, friendships, family, and in business. Timing and listening. You are going to be more successful if you remember these keys to better communication.

We will have more to share regarding communication. This is a start. Please respond and try these two concepts in your next “important” communication.

Coaching and training are available at the Stress Education Center, www.dstress.com.

Building the Team: Creating a Positive Environment at Work

We spend a lot of our time engaged in work. For many of us, our work includes regular, perhaps daily, interactions with co-workers. Relationships form with the people who we work with and who we see many days of the week. These relationships can make the work environment positive and productive or, to the contrary, negative and even destructive. Good managers encourage good relationships at work, in most situations. The supportive relationships can assist the work of the organization to move forward. As people get to “know” one another, deeper understanding and tolerance can grow which can lead to better professional relationships and enhanced productivity. Building a team in your work group or, within your immediate organization, allows people to connect in positive supportive ways. This is especially true in businesses which require communication amongst personnel to accomplish the end product or service. Technology companies, healthcare providers, most financial organizations, education, and most governmental organizations can benefit from the enhanced communication which good team building helps to create.

Team building is not a waste of time, because when it is done correctly, it saves time, increases productivity, reduces accidents and mistakes, and encourages good problem solving to overcome obstacles and time pressures. There is almost no downside to team building. It does require time to get started and to help maintain but the positive attitudes in the workforce will offer a positive return on investment. Good or great managers rely on the benefits of their efforts to build productive teams. Creating “buy-in” and the emotional connection of the key personnel will increase loyalty and productivity while reducing sabotage and increase retention. Team building can be a key ingredient for many of the most important “players.”

Consider that not all team building activities work as expected. Sometimes it can go sideways, or worse. Some planning is required and the tailoring of a team building program can have greater positive results. A good manager might want to get some assistance in developing and executing a great team building activity. Please do some research to determine the best program for you and your organization. Getting input from your team will enhance “buy-in” even before the event, so consider interactions with participants as you develop your program.

For additional coaching regarding your team building requirements or for program development consider contacting the Stress Education Center at www.dstress.com for input and support.

9 Benefits of Executive Coaching

Why executive coaching? Because study after study shows that coaching works! Executive Coaching is an effective tool for organizations and their key people in making changes in both the direction and impact of their work. It is a cost effective way to assist your key personnel to develop their skills in leadership, communication, strategic planning & implementation, focus and accountability.

The focus of the coaching relationship is on the client, on what the client wants to have happen, and on what will help them to achieve it. There is no other relationship that consistently offers this extraordinary level of support and encouragement. The coaching relationship is often described as “having your own personal navigator for the journey: someone who will help you find your way and stay on course”. Many business and professional people describe having a coach as their own “secret weapon”, someone who keeps them focused and on track toward their goals when the tendency otherwise might be to lose energy or become distracted.

How Can Executive Coaching Help You?
1. Gain clarity about and maximize your strengths.
2. Gain ongoing encouragement and accountability toward reaching your goals.
3. Reach higher levels of performance and results.
4. Become the leader you have always wanted to be.
5. Identify and align your life and work with your values.
6. Set and achieve individualized personal and professional goals.
7. Thwart your “inner critic” and other stumbling blocks which have previously sabotaged your success.
8. Develop and sustain balance between work and personal life.
9. Apply concepts from international research on positive psychology to learn how to become happier and derive more satisfaction from your life.

Excellent Areas for Executive Coaching Include:
• Maximizing performance and results at work
• Developing, and fully utilizing a strong, highly engaged staff
• Successfully modeling and managing the challenge of change
• Starting a new area of business or expanding your current business in new and innovative ways
• Becoming more organized and in control of your time and space
• Preparing for or successfully navigating a career transition
• Developing new energy and stamina by becoming healthier, losing weight and changing your lifestyle for good
• Creating more joy, and revitalizing the passion in work

Executive and Corporate Coaching is for Increasing Productivity:
• Human Resources Departments interested in hiring external coaches
• CEO’s, executives, managers and other professionals who would like a coach
• Companies looking to launch a coaching initiative
• Initiatives to prevent and/or cure burnout
• Companies wanting the support of a coach in any of the following: Strategic planning, process re-engineering; creating a compelling vision; launching and developing teams; or 360-degree reviews.

Also, this is great support for business owners and entrepreneurs who have goals and long ranged plans.

L. John Mason, Ph.D. is the author of the best selling “Guide to Stress Reduction.” Since 1977, he has offered Success & Executive Coaching and Training (using Sports Psychology.) Contact Dr. Mason to discuss your specific requirements and to receive a tailored proposal for you or your organization.

Please visit the Stress Education Center’s website at www.dstress.com for articles on Executive Stress and Performance, free blog signup, and learn about the new telecourses that are available. If you would like information or a targeted proposal for training or coaching, please contact us at (360) 593-3833. www.dstress.com

Social Skills: Are They Necessary?

Social skills: are they necessary to get along in the society?

Are social skills really necessary in present-day society? Has the use of technology reduced our ability to function socially and to communicate effectively? How do you develop good social skills and use them most effectively?

I am sure that you have experienced people in this world who seem to lack even the most basic of social skills. They are socially awkward and they are lacking in interpersonal communication skills. There are many people in this world who march through the world as if they are the “bull in the china shop,” he socially. These people do not seem to recognize that other people exist and must function in the same world, or in the same space, as they do.

In social relationships, these people may seem awkward and difficult to communicate with. They may seem insensitive and sometimes disruptive. They do not seem to understand basic social interactions and so they seem to blunder through social experiences in often entertaining ways. (It is entertaining only if you have the right attitude and can identify the shortcomings of these people. When you are not in the right mood, these behaviors may be very irritating and annoying. And the sad thing is, that these people do not even realize that they have been annoying or that their behaviors have been lacking in good social skill.

In business, the lack of interpersonal social skills can be a real detriment to success and to long-term positive business relationships. There are many job descriptions where the lack of social skills is more accepted and perhaps even valued, however, it can create very difficult and awkward in situations in the higher functioning business activities. In social and business situations, you are often, but not always, given one chance to make a good impression and can be forgiven for a single social faux pas. Repeated social awkwardness can label you as unworthy for long-term business relationships. Depending on the business situation, there are behaviors, vocabulary, dress codes, and presentation skills that can either support or deter business relationships. If you do not know the appropriate behaviors, your blunders may really get in your way.

But where do you learn good social skills that can help you in interpersonal relationships and business situations? Many children, very early in their lives, learn by watching and interacting with the people in their lives. If their parents do not have social skills or if they are left too long with their young peers, they may find it difficult to get along in school, business, and interpersonal relationships. It can often be embarrassing and from this embarrassment a person can either choose the path towards greater self-awareness and development of social skills or they can continue to isolate themselves. All of us have had our socially awkward moments, but most of us who have gained success, have learned from our mistakes or awkwardness and have developed better interpersonal skills and effective ways of communicating and leading other people. There are even some leadership programs such as Toastmasters where people can develop better communication and leadership abilities. People who refuse to develop these skills can still be successful but may have a more difficult path to follow.

With the use of technologies, more young people do not have face-to-face contact and the opportunities to develop good verbal and nonverbal communication skills. This may cause social awkwardness in school, in business, and in developing important interpersonal relationships. Sometimes we have to quit text messaging and actually sit eyeball to eyeball with another person to learn the skills of both verbal and nonverbal communication. An important consideration is that we learn to trust our gut feelings in social situations and learn to read the people that we are interacting with. Again, there can be many times when we make mistakes and come across as “communication challenged.” We must learn from these important experiences.

Sometimes we need to find a mentor or a coach who can help us develop our own personal insights, awareness, and interpersonal skills. Since these skills are not always taught in school, even in college, we must honor the importance of these experiences and abilities and pursue them to be able to achieve our highest levels of success. I challenge you to find the best situations and mentors so that you can develop these social skills and find the success that you deserve. (Organizations like Toastmasters may be a good place to start.)

Please send any comments or questions to the Stress Education Center regarding these blogs. Please take good care of yourself.

10 Steps to Manage Anger in the Workplace

1. Identify who is angry
Train your managers and employees to identify the behaviors that can signal an anger challenged co-worker and have a positive system that will report these behaviors to management for further investigation. Do not wait.

2. Identify why they are angry
Interview reporting staff to determine whether indications warrant further review. Interview subject to determine why they may be angry at work. Offer positive solutions for individual stress and anger control or refer to EAP if appropriate and available.

3. Find solutions to organizations’ culture as it pertains to anger
Do not stick your head in the sand. Tackle the possible organizational issues that may be creating the stress and anger within your organization and work to solve these challenges.

4. Train leaders to create a culture of civility
Leadership comes from the top down and must address the issues with resolve. If anger is inbred in an organization’s leaders this becomes a difficult but important concern. The costs of anger are too high, in the long run, for an organization to be most productive and long standing. Retention of key personnel becomes an issue, if the leadership creates a culture that tolerates, or encourages, anger in the work place. Legal issues will also become an issue that cuts profits and productivity.

5. Train managers to identify anger and manage teams/individuals with issues
Managers require training, support, and good leadership. Coaching or mentoring managers, especially new managers who have risen from technical backgrounds, becomes an essential ingredient for most successful organizations. This will also reduce turn-over, sabotage, and legal challenges.

6. Train employees to control their stress and anger appropriately
Give all of your employees the tools they need to manage their own individual stresses and anger. Do not assume that they will learn civility and self-management outside of work. Though this requires time, resources, and management attention, it will pay off in increased organizational productivity and employee loyalty.

7. Manage organizational stress and transition management
Learn how to manage your organizations transitions and help your executives and employees survive the stress at work. This will prevent problems and create an environment where positive performance can thrive.

8. Create an anger management program for individuals with clear goals
When someone has an identified anger management challenge, it may be a great management decision to assist your personnel with a anger management program rather than replacing these people or expecting and outside agency to fix your “problem.” Programs can be tailored for your specific requirements. Some have a 2 day seminar and individual coaching if individuals require additional support. Other organizations may have on-going, and mandatory, groups for people identified with anger challenges. External coaches or therapists are often hired for these programs so confidentiality does not become an issue in the work environment.

9. Take immediate action: Zero tolerance of anger and violence
Tolerating anger displays or violence is dangerous. It can send the wrong message and opening your organization up to harassment law suits. Leaders must be strong with this Zero Tolerance.

10. Offer ways to speak out safely about issues to prevent anger and violence (be open to creative solutions)
Create venues that allow people to be heard. Respect diversity of opinion. Create a safe way to express appropriate levels of stress and frustration. Always look to build a better environment and culture.
To implement these principles can require resolve and leadership. Many organizations require coaching and consulting to make these deep changes to their culture. The pay-off can be found in increased productivity, loyalty, and more creativity to problem solving.

L. John Mason, Ph.D. is the author of the best selling “Guide to Stress Reduction.” Since 1977, he has offered Success & Executive Coaching and Training.

Please visit the Stress Education Center’s website at Stress, Stress Management, Coaching, and Training for articles, free newsletter signup, and learn about the new telecourses that are available. If you would like information or a targeted proposal for training or coaching, please contact us at (360) 593-3833.

If you are looking to promote your training or coaching career, please investigate the Professional Stress Management Training and Certification Program for a secondary source of income or as career path.

Dealing with Angry or Anxious Clients

Every situation is unique because the people involved are different. With that said, this blog can offer a basic introduction on strategies that may assist you when you are confronted by anxious or angry clients or customers (consumers.) The event that brought these people into confrontation with you is important to understand and needs to be worked into your solution.

For example, image that you are being confronted by an “upset” consumer who wants to acquire iodine pills to prevent thyroid cancer after a nuclear release in Japan has blown over to your region. The national government has limited the supply of these pills because the government wants the pills to go to the regions where it will be needed most, due to limitations on the supply. The media has whipped up the levels of anxiety and many people are not thinking clearly, impulsively wanting the medication that may not be needed for their specific demographic. You have access to the medication but are not allowed to release it unless your customer meets certain criteria which has been established by some far away governmental agency. What do you do in this situation where you have very little control but are on the front line for taking the “heat” for this media whipped frenzy???

It is good to start by understanding why people react the way that they do in a crisis situation. People often perceive themselves in mortal danger. Their flight-fight response is triggered by the fear created by half truths the media passes off as news. When this panicked response begins, the rational parts of our brains often “shut down” or at least, takes a reduced decision making position subservient to the more primitive part of the brain where the automatic survival mechanisms are centered. This primitive part of the brain, also called the “reptilian brain” because it is related to primitive reptilian responses from millions of years ago is more dominant in certain stressful situations when we require quick reactions to survive. The basic emotions that are expressed when we are stressed are ANGER, FEAR (anxious), Sadness, and, perhaps surprisingly, Joy! These are the 4 basic emotions and these emotions have primitive origins. So, people who are stressed often reduce their abilities to think, problem solve, and communicate, and go into a reactive mood where fear or anger are close to the surface and are demonstrated. Knowing this, you must begin to identify who is angry or fearful and why. Why are they not understanding the full picture? Probably because they do not have all the information and they can not problem solve well due to the stress/anxiety they are processing.

If you have time, the following list offers some of the best ways to handle this situation in order of how you might proceed:

1. Ask questions regarding their base of knowledge and, more importantly, their feelings (fears, anger, anxiety). What is their history of this situation? Often they are trying to protect a loved one and they feel powerless to control a difficult situation. Consider their source of news or mis-information but do not confront them about this in the early stages.

2. Calm them down. Re-state their concerns by repeating back what you have heard and ask them to correct any of YOUR mis-understandings about their specific situation. Know what you are dealing with AND show the respect of listening to their fears/concerns. Offer them ways to comfort themselves in this difficult situation.

3. Get them information about their concern so they can make an informed decision. When they ask questions, give them more information, as patiently as possible. Do not expect a “rational response.” Keep your emotions (frustration) in check, as best you can, to help defuse the panicked response. (I was reminded that in difficult situations people will “go shopping” for the “answer that they want to hear,” so consistent answers or policy descriptions will save you a lot of grief… This requires training for the people who have jobs communicating with the public.)

4. Negotiate a solution that helps to solve their emotional response. Provide time lines, as best you can. Be as honest as you can be, based on the information you have.

5. Honesty and compassion, when sincere, are 2 of your best tools. Brutal honesty, though, is not called for in a stressful situation. Good bedside manner will often get you farther, faster. Reflecting their concerns back to them in a different way will help them to feel heard and may save you time in the long run by helping to establish a positive rapport (or connection.)

6. Always, apologize to them for the situation even if you are not the cause of the problem, and if you are the cause, apologize most sincerely. People would like to feel that their response was correct, even when it is not.

7. If you have not done so already, take GOOD care of yourself. Calm down! Do not get “sucked in” to crazy emotionally driven behavior by your own lack of a solid emotional foundation.

8. If all else fails, say sincerely to yourself, “This to shall pass…” TRY to not get stuck in the “drama” (anxious feelings and reactions) because this will not do you, or anyone else, any good. When the dilemma has subsided, and you feel “out of the line of fire,” do what emergency responders do… make a bad or twisted joke about the difficult situation. This will help to take away its emotional power and can begin the process of your crisis de-briefing.

Good luck. Please take good care of yourself, preventively. Contact the Stress Education Center for coaching or organizational training to assist with managing this process at www.dstress.com.