Hold Your Fire – to Learn More and Reduce Stress

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom” –Victor Frankl


2020, to say the least, was a challenging year.  Although it’s over, many of the challenges, uncertainty and related stress continue! Of course, stress is nothing new – we all have to deal with it in some form, at some time, in both our professional and personal lives. Knowing that it will continue, we should prepare for dealing with it effectively, and perhaps benefit from it as well. The good news is there are many ways to do so – and here are three tips for dealing with stress and uncertainty that can make a positive difference:

1.Listen intently. I’m sure we can all agree that listening is important. However, there’s a big difference between hearing someone speak and listening to what they’re really saying. We can distinguish that difference by choosing to be in the moment, which is simply focusing on “them” not you – with intent! By being 100% in the moment we let more information and knowledge in (both facts and feelings), and keep noise and distraction out. The more knowledge we have the greater our understanding of issues, thus reducing stress!

2. Wait (hold back!) for more alternatives to surface. When dealing with people and circumstances we know there is usually more – to a discussion, debate, disagreement, or clash of perspectives. To find out what that more is, we can simply “hold our fire” and wait for (or encourage) more information to surface. Doing so allows us to respond to dialogue more relevantly, rather than react to it tangentially (or even incorrectly), giving us a much greater chance of being in charge of the circumstance.

3.Ask questions. After applying tips one and two above we can then engage, and the best way to do that is to ask questions. First, ask questions to define and clarify the condition e.g., “Do I correctly understand that your recommendation is to …?”; and questions that probe, e.g., “Who – What – When – Where – How – Why?” Then, results oriented questions might be in order, e.g. “Where would you like to go from here?”, “How can I help?” Such questions validate your understanding of the speaker’s message and also let the speaker know they were understood. This result is a win-win which, in turn, is a great stress reducer.

“Holding your fire” is a conscious choice of choosing to respond rather than react. It is a simple and effective way to listen better, stay actively engaged and learn more – to become an even better leader. Successful leaders also know that it is accompanied with a significant side benefit of reducing stress!

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