By Audrey Fraizer
The toolkit Darcy Lord lugged to NAVIGATOR certainly could mean a lighter load for others when it comes to getting along in the communication center.
“You absolutely have the ability to create your own relief from people and things that don’t behave,” said Lord, who has a doctorate in somatic education from the Ohio State University. “Even if you don’t believe it.”
Somatic studies address the mind-body connection, Lord explained in her presentation: “I’d be fine if it wasn’t for you! What to do when people (and things) won’t behave,” and through the three tools presented, she had her at-capacity audience ditching their baggage—at least for the time devoted to unpacking.
“You become your own agent of change,” Lord said.
The change, she said, comes from turning others’ bad behavior around, which also means shifting your own perspective regarding the thing or individual causing discomfort. It’s like a win-win for stress reduction.
“Things start to swing around when you find something to appreciate about the individual,” Lord said. “You begin seeing what you’ve considered difficult people and situations from positive emotions.”
Stress is a known commodity in the workplace and most agree that the stress results from the interaction of the worker and the working conditions. However, what is stressful for one person may not be a problem for another.
Sources can also vary according to the job.
Heavy equipment operators, for example, might worry about their safety in the “danger zone,” the place where contact with large machinery can cause accident and injury. In contrast, employees working together in jobs that put a lot of people in the same space more often creates the pressure of trying to get along with difficult personalities. There may be inherent traits such as aggression or impatience, or the “know-it-all” who refuses to take anyone’s advice.
Emergency communications can add layers of frustration and feelings of helplessness to the pressures already associated with actual or perceived bad co-worker behavior. Life-threatening crises, frantic callers, shift changes, pace, the demands of multi-tasking, imbalances between work and home, and feelings of “low social value” can snowball into a working environment rife with harmful conditions.
So what happens when stress shakes its ugly head?
“We age; we gain weight,” Lord said. “We sleep badly. We might feel depressed or anxious.”
People near the edge are more likely to become distracted and make errors in judgment. Warning signs may go unnoticed or the individual might ignore the signs, hoping they will go away. An employer acknowledging stress might take steps to prevent or alleviate the pressures from becoming negative stressors.
But that might not solve every problem.
“What about the co-workers who might be causing the distress?” Lord asked. “What can you do when people don’t behave?”
That’s where the toolkit comes in. Achieving balance often means putting the weight in your corner.
In other words, you become the change you want to see in others. Lord presented three tools to her audience.
Tool No. 1: Take a physiological break
Shift your physiology back into balance and get yourself to a more positive or neutral experience by focusing on your breathing and recalling something that you enjoy. The way you breathe affects your whole body, Lord said. Deep breathing—long, smooth breaths—sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. Your brain relays the message to your body.
“Do this at anytime,” she said. “Don’t wait until you have 20 minutes open. It’s something that can be done immediately without leaving where you are.”
Recalling a pleasant walk outside or visiting with a friend can remove you, at least momentarily, from the difficult situation.
Tool No. 2: Find the opposite in the negative qualities perceived or known
Maybe you witness behavior you believe isn’t aboveboard. For example, if someone at work is not following policy (e.g., fails to follow protocol), and you do not have control over remedying the situation, you could practice the feeling of “I love being around people I trust who act with high levels of integrity.” It’s not about the words; it’s about getting to the feeling that brings relief. Do this for a whole week even if it doesn’t feel practical. Things will begin to shift.1
You could also visualize behaviors you would like to see in the individual. Instead of impatient, imagine a person who is calm and persevering; instead of cranky, imagine a person who is good-humored.
Tool No. 3: Play the appreciation game
Lord encourages a sincere attempt to finding something to appreciate about the individual driving you to distraction. It could be as simple as noticing the picture of a child or pet the co-worker keeps in a frame next to the console and realizing the care and love for others that isn’t obvious to you in the workplace.
You might have to dig deeper. For example, you could actually approach the co-worker and engage in conversation. You might open with questions about the person’s hobbies or favorite restaurants. You two could find you share something in common, and that could help bridge past disagreements and resentment and even move the relationship to a positive track.
“When you start doing this, people start changing,” Lord said. “And it’s your own relief providing the best reason for you to try.”
1Darcy Lord, Positively Changing Things, http://www.drdarcylord.com/default.htm (accessed Sept. 25, 2013)