How to reduce workplace stress with effective listening

ShowUp Team | Published: September 22, 2020
Workplace Culture

Stressed out? Can’t sleep? Current evidence supports that up to 90% of doctor/nurse practitioner visits are workplace stress related. Everything from migraines to digestive issues; depression to insomnia; panic attacks to completely losing your composure or self-control at work. It’s happening and it’s scary.

The band-aid solution involves a number of approaches that are geared to alleviate the symptoms; take a few sick days, take a sleeping, anti-depressant, and/or stomach pill, take a vacation, go out, relax, and have a few drinks. None of the above scratch the surface of the ongoing core struggles.

Stress in the workplace is real and without recognition and interpersonal training on its dialogue, it will continue to be damaging. The domino effect being seen is that creativity and innovation are at a standstill in companies exerting all of their energy on dealing with the chaos stress causes instead of putting their resources into effectively dealing with the core issue.

Communication is the driving power of an effective team, yet it continues to be the number one reason of workplace stress. Poor communication patterns lead to a lack of trust which continues to be the number one reason a team will lose their motivation to work together. It takes the multi-layered perspective of looking within each team member's communication patterns to uncover the barriers with accuracy.

It comes down to the level of emotional intelligence within conversations. I draw on the work of Daniel Goleman and his philosophy of emotional intelligence in the workplace. In order to move forward in creating healthy and psychologically safe work environments where team members feel comfortable being themselves and taking risks, it’s time to rip off the band-aids and dissolve the barriers.

The main component of emotional intelligence is self-awareness. It is not enough to speak your mind, but to have an awareness of the impact it’s truly causing within your work environment. Self-awareness includes choosing empathy over defensiveness, choosing being open to other perspectives over being right, and choosing to value relationship building over getting your own needs met your way. Emotional intelligence is the act of choosing how you are going to react to any given situation.

It’s recognizing your emotions but not allowing them to take over your thoughts. This aspect of self-awareness incorporates your ability to remain socially sensitive to others in your immediate surroundings. A key ingredient to a psychologically safe working environment where creativity and innovation can happen and companies can thrive in.

Empathy and social skills are social intelligence, the interpersonal part of emotional intelligence. That’s why they look alike.

In the social environments of today’s workplaces where technology continues to shine and human connection is done at alarming rates through online communication channels, it is now more important than ever to become self-aware of what you are putting out there. Social sensitivity in your words, kindness in your follow-throughs, and recognition of value to those around you is what makes up emotional intelligence in your day to day behaviors.

For more highlight and examples check out: Emotional Intelligence in Leadership: Learning How to Be More Aware

The reality is we all have room to grow when it comes to how we communicate with each other. Some will read and apply Daniel Goleman’s work on emotional intelligence, and some will remain not ready or be unwilling to dive into this personal/professional development. The takeaway here is this: when you find you are the recipient of someone’s emotional outburst or defensive communication patterns, use your own emotional intelligence to effectively address and rectify the situation for you.

Understand that the ability to perceive what that person is going through is by sensing their emotions and paying attention to their perspective. This is what gives you the ability to respond with words where both of you are heard. It doesn’t mean that you have to agree. It means you are self-regulating your response all the while letting your thoughts be known.

The other party may still choose not to hear you, but you will know you have done everything you can and with that insight, you’ll be able to move forward without that stress. The real cause of headaches at work has more to do with unhealthy communication patterns than the domino effect they cause. The choice is yours on how you address it for you.

Here are some more resources for you to take a look at!

· Daniel Goleman on Leadership and The Power of Emotional Intelligence

· Emotional Intelligence in Leadership: Learning How to Be More Aware

· Workplace Stress: The need for Communication and Knowledge Sharing

· It's not just you: 4 in 5 Americans stressed out from poor office communication

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