Whether in the context of work or home, life gets better as stress is diminished. And, as Chuck Christian points out in this excellent piece — one element of reducing stress is reducing friction in our processes and relationships.
Let’s start with processes. One of the biggest projects I regularly manage is the production of Webinars. With every event, I work to standardize the “recipe” for success — to formalize the many steps, scripts, timelines and policies that result in a successful event. In short, I strive to reduce the “stress” of these projects by reducing deviation, by not reinventing the wheel, by instituting repetitive processes. Just like an EMR vendor has its implementation “secret sauce” that gets tweaked a bit with every new install, I’ve got mine. I’m sure you have yours as well. The more these processes are smoothed, sanded and refined, the less friction and the less stressful their execution.
As always, standardizing our approach to interpersonal dynamics is more complicated. But, even here, employing some best practices can go a long way. There are people in your life that you want to, even need to, get along with. Have you ever continually battled with one of these folks, scratched your head and asked, “Why can’t we just get along?”
The answer is you can, but it’s going to take a different approach. The core problem is that we often cannot trust our “gut” reaction to be one that will, as Christian states, lubricate or smooth these key relationships. Likely an evolutionary inheritance, our immediate reaction to a request or problem is usually the selfish one. Mind you, I don’t mean to use the word in a negative way — just a statement of fact — we immediately and initially process outside stimuli in light of its effect on us, not the relationship in question or the larger context of that relationship in our lives.
It’s clear that unless we train ourselves to slow things down at these critical moments, to think instead of react, we’ll likely get it “wrong.” Wrong, that is, in the context of strengthening the relationship. What does this mean? First off, when one of these key people enters your office, when you see them in the hall or when their number comes up on your caller ID, take the briefest instant and reflect on the relationship — retrieve the context that must be applied to the imminent discussion, the framework that you must appreciate to have the right reactions.
Next, whenever possible, defer an immediate decision. Even if for only for a few hours, taking the time to deliberate, to think through both the consequences of compliance and rejection, can mean the difference between relationship success or failure. Simply request a short amount of time to investigate, to “check your schedule” or “run it by” so and so.
Happiness and success are, as Christian said, about reducing stress and friction, about sanding edges and lubricating parts. In every encounter, there is an opportunity that often comes in the form of granting or rejecting a request. Of course, it’s impossible to always say yes, to always apply the grease — some pleas are just out of bounds or impossible to accommodate. The point is that our tactical and immediate gut reactions often don’t further our strategic relationship goals.
The worst decisions are those left unmade, but the second-worst are made in haste. In the middle lies the sweet spot, and only by seeking it can you hope to have every key encounter result in an optimal outcome.