On the day after the election in 2016 I wrote a blog regarding “How to Help Those Feeling Anxiety Today”. Here we are nearly four years later and the situation is similar and possibly worse. That blog still has merit today. However, being four years older and a little wiser (I hope) I want to offer some insights this year just before the election to help you and others over the near future. It is expected that at least about half of the people at work will be unhappy and have anxiety once the election results are known. Going into election day, with all of the hype, over $1 billion spent on TV adds and other media, and the continuous bombardment on the news, we all could use a break.
What do we know?
This time we may not know the results immediately after the election. It may take several days or even longer to sort this all out. What we do know is that both sides have geared up for court fights. They may or may not be necessary. What this means is that we may have hostilities and hard feelings lingering for quite some time. These may even be fueled by the party that lost the election, outside agitators, and internal anarchists. However, you still need to work with others that feel both the same and different from you. You have long term relationships to think about. You need to reduce conflicts, promote collaboration and work together. Collaboration is the key for you, your career and the firm. This is a time for you to think very seriously about what you say before you say it. Think before you speak. Explore your own motives. Don’t speak if what you are about to say will not add positive value. Great advice, but what should you do calm yourself and not overreact?
What you should do
Before you bring up anything about the election ask yourself why am I bringing this up? What is my intention? What bias do I have and what is my motivation? Is now the time and the place?
Think before you speak. With grandmother’s wisdom taken from a family Bible about gossip ask yourself:
Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it necessary?
With these questions in mind, you may not bring it up, or you may and someone else may too.
How can you handle a difficult situation?
- Try friendly conversation. Perhaps redirect the conversation to another topic that can help diffuse the situation. Think about other news stories, sports, weather, family, pets or other areas of potential common interest.
- Consider focusing on values rather than beliefs. As Americans we need to focus on what we can do to help diffuse the situation and focus on working together to address America’s problems. Pointing out common values that we share and that we need to remain positive and focus on the future may help.
- You may challenge yourself and the other party to correct positions and beliefs. Typically, you will not change anyone’s beliefs. However, if instead you focus on values, you may discover you have common values. Explore faith, family, friends, and search for other areas in common.
- If you complain about the election and whatever you don’t like about the current situation, this may be a viable alternative to vent. It may also trigger flooding and anger. This may not be a healthy way to share what you think at work.
- You can find someone that feels like you do and vent with each other with whatever concerns you have, but don’t let venting overwhelm you. Be there with empathy for each other, not to fuel anger and anxiety.
These are all alternatives. Some are better than others. Let’s step back a moment and consider some practical elements given various ways we may respond.
Let’s get real
Consider your emotions
As a mediator, dispute resolution, and conflict resolution specialist I have learned from neuroscience that we are 98% emotional and 2% rational. Right now, your emotions may be running pretty high. You need to realize this and manage yourself. Focus on your work. Manage your reactions and what you say to others. Before going to work or answering the phone, take a moment to reappraise the situation, think about what you might say, and set yourself up for success. Role play yourself remaining calm. You make a choice of what attitude you are going to take. Before entering into the situation agree to take the high road. Be positive. Be focused on the task at hand. Don’t go below the line and become angry.
Limit negative conversations
You don’t have to keep the conversation going. Consider limiting the time with the other party if this is a negative encounter. You can share that you have something else (meeting, call, task) that you need to address that keeps you from prolonging the situation. To avoid danger we regress into fight, flight, or freeze modes. The situation may feel dangerous. Excuse yourself and leave the room if necessary. This is a great time to make use of flight mode rather than fight or freeze. This way you won’t say something you may regret later and you can exit the trying situation.
Focus on being empathetic. Be kind. Be respectful. Do not focus on being right. There are times you can be dead right, meaning, yes you were right, but the consequences may be very negative or wrong. Your intention is not to have negative consequences.
Consider your stress level
Reduce your stress level. Consider going for a walk. Think about exercise before, during, or after work. Consider mindfulness, take a deep breath, take several deep breaths.
Consider the 5/15/10 rule. That is before or during a confrontation breathe in with a deep breath using your diaphragm for 5 seconds, hold it for 15 seconds, and let it out slowly 10 seconds. You may even want to do these 2 or 3 times. This will give your brain a surge of oxygen and give you a more alert, calmer perspective. This technique also keeps you from speaking and possibly saying something you may regret later. Focus on counting out the seconds in your head.
Pay attention to your body and how you are feeling. Be aware of your emotional triggers and work to de-escalate yourself.
This information is being offered at this time to provide you with suggestions and some common-sense reminders that may help you today and into the future. Hopefully the application of one or more of these ideas may help reduce your stress level. Continue to build positive, support relationships at work, with others to reaffirm your own self esteem.
About the author
Mike is a dispute resolution specialist, a professional speaker, and an author. You may contact Mike directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 11 books including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts and, The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]