Effective coping requires adjustment and adaptation to changing circumstances. You can often get into difficulty by constantly repeating behavior that has worked in the past while overlooking the fact that the situation has changed.
Kelly Therrion specializes in Organizational Behavior Management, and consults with clients in a business context to help them perform more efficiently at their workplace. Viewed in a broader perspective, however, her suggestions are relevant to coping with everyday life in a wide variety of situations. We make the same points many times in this blog, but what she has to say is worth repeating.
Imagine yourself during one of those frustrating, stressful times. You feel like you’re ready to explode at another person who is making your life miserable at this particular time. What do you do?
First, remember that you can’t control the other person’s behavior; you must focus on your own actions and thinking. Second, find a way to “vent” some steam. We don’t mean you need to lash out at someone, yell at them, or insult them. Such behavior would be counterproductive. As we noted in our June 29, 2016 blog, however, there are appropriate ways of venting. Take a timeout; talk things over with a friend who will listen; go to the gym for a vigorous workout or jog/walk for a mile or two; write down your frustrations in private (see blog from August 1, 2016).
Three, think about the specific aspects of your situation that seem to trigger your frustration and emotional upheaval. Once you make yourself aware of such situational causes, you can be on your guard in those situations and make yourself less vulnerable to disruptive emotional arousal (see blogs of September 16, 2016, and February 10, 2018).
Four, try and understand the other person’s perspective. When someone says something totally at odds with your opinion it is easy to forget that there are two sides to every story, and the truth is often in the middle. Also, as we noted in the October 14, 2018 blog, once you have achieved some empathetic understanding of others, the clarity, rationality, and effectiveness of your communication with them will be greatly enhanced.
Five, use your communication with others to help you adjust your thinking. You may need to modify your opinion in order to find new ways to be proactive in the situation. No matter what your situation, it is generally worthwhile to find a good “fit” between your beliefs and preferences, and the needs and opinions of those with whom you interact. Doing so may require some compromise on your part, but that’s a good thing. When confronted with conflict and challenges, the object is not to win by destroying your opponent; your goal should be to reach an appropriate resolution that makes everyone function better as a team.