Just Because Someone Else Is Panicking at Work Doesn't Mean You Should Too
“Confidence is contagious.”
You’ve probably heard that before, maybe while prepping for a job interview or working on a pitch to deliver to the leadership team. But, confidence isn’t the only attitude that can be shared between people. Unfortunately, anxiety (and impatience, among a whole host of negative emotions) can also be transferred from person to person.
Mike Monteiro, co-founder of Mule Design and author of Design Is a Job illustrates this point with his advice on how to stop adopting client’s anxiety. His tactics, which include “remain calm” and “be empathetic,” are useful for anyone who has a client-facing role, but they can also be employed when dealing with co-workers, your boss, or even the hiring manager you’re interviewing with.
I know “remain calm,” is easy in theory, but harder to practice—especially if you’re passionate and invested in your work. If you know you’re a quick fuse, attempt to slow down the conversation. Try repeating the words back, or ask the person to speak slower, or let him know that you want to take notes (which can actually help mollify an upset person by letting him know that you’re paying attention).
Actively remember to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Maybe your client’s anxious because her promotion is tied to her completing a project on time, and you have to let her know that your company’s behind on the design deliverables. Of course you’d react like that if you were in her shoes, so let that understanding be evident through any communication you have with her.
Even if the above tips don’t always do the trick, learn to recognize when you start adopting someone else’s stress and separate yourself (mentally) from his or her attitude. Buy yourself time by saying, “I’m taking care of another issue right now, can we schedule time to meet later today or tomorrow morning so that we can discuss what’s going on?” Really anything that’ll put some space between you and the other person will help you avoid adopting her attitude—meaning you’ll be able to deal with the situation more calmly and avoid passing on those feelings of panic to anyone else on your team.
After all, the minutes you spend getting upset and then trying to get back on task add up. You have your own work to think about.
Photo of people talking courtesy of Johnny Greig/Getty Images
Nina understands the struggle of a major career change. After snagging her first job at fourteen, she continued down the path of employment by pursuing a motley assortment of vocations. Ask her about her time in the Army, or her stint as a Harvard research guinea pig. Say hi @ninadawdles or ninasemczuk.com.More from this Author