How many apologies have you heard in your lifetime that began with, “I was stressed”?
It’s not a defense for a criminal to explain that they were upset. That their spouse left them; that they got yelled at by their boss; or that their top client left for a competitor. They still go to jail.
Crimes that occur in those stressful situations, committed by the ‘quiet, normal guy’ next door, occur in part because in a state of stress our minds and bodies strip away the perceived non-critical human tool, empathy. In a time of stress we tend toward selfishness.
In the eyes of the law of human trust it doesn’t matter if you were stressed. Just like the criminal, your actions still go on your permanent record. And those around you remember.
We’ve all had an environment where we determined if it was going to be a good day or a bad day based on the boss’s mood. If he was in a bad mood and stressed we became that way too because of his behavior. If he was in a good mood he probably left us alone.
If something bad happened we prepared for the boss’s blow-up reaction. Not a lot of fun to work in that environment and hard to perform at our best.
We can probably find some great things the boss did if we think back but any positives were more than offset by the lack of grace under fire displayed. It was on his permanent record, and unfortunately on ours too. That is what we remember.
As I’m sitting here in a coffee shop with others buried in their screens, unwrapping my thoughts and writing this, I realize that an important key here is awareness. Self-awareness – the hardest part of awareness.
Can we train ourselves to monitor our mental and physical state to know when our buttons are pressed? To know when we reach that stress level where the cortisol rises and the adrenaline is pumping and we throw the ballast of empathy overboard?
We probably don’t need a Fitbit on our wrist to know when this is happening. What are the signs you notice in yourself?
Take the time to notice. Stop. Ask the question: What would the calm me do in this situation?
Put yourself under fire. Test the process. Take notice. Stop. Ask the question. Act with grace.
Where’s your limit? When do you give in to the stress? Can you raise that bar?
To do this week: See above. Practice; notice; stop. What would a calm me do? Raise that limit.
Notice the results. Is the calmness and grace under fire spreading?
Let me know how it’s going. Click the “comments” box below to participate in an on-going discussion via LinkedIn.