Your People Know; Ensure You Do, too, and Make Better Choices

Mrs. Van, the owner of Van’s Arts, Crafts, Hobbies, Ceramics and Picture Framing (boy: I hated it when the phone rang!) was one of my first bosses. We retail sales clerks at any of her three stores could always tell when she was in a bad mood.

She’d walk into the store with pursed lips. She’d look around for anything that appeared to be out of place. Sometimes it was the smallest thing, like some railroad set boxes not stacked up straight. Then, under a withering stare and loud, clipped voice, she would call all of us over to see what offended her.

Mrs. Van would give us a five-minute lecture on how everything we did was a reflection of her. Whenever there were no customers in the store, it was our job to go around and ensure everything looked neat.

Was she right? Yes. But her brow-beating style was hardly an incentive. In part, because she never recognized any of us for doing something well.

All she did was reinforce how unhappy we were to see her.

What do your people see when you’re stressed out, angry or afraid? It’s likely to be one of these four things.

Remember: in tough situations, your amygdala shuts down two-thirds of your brain. This includes your emotional brain, which makes decisions, and your thinking brain, which analyzes information and makes plans. All you have left is fight, flight or freeze.

And because our emotional and thinking brains are offline, we just default to the same kind of behavior without consciously choosing it.

Mrs. Van’s choice was fight, with a side of belittlement.

Ask the three questions in the video when you’re in a difficult situation. Make sure the way you act reflects a desire to improve the outcome rather than just to soothe yourself.