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May 2007, Stress Management & Diversity

By February 2, 2016 No Comments

The Intersection Between Stress Management and Diversity & Inclusion

When I started conducting workshops on stress management throughout the country, I was struck by how many people felt stressed out by other people. So many people I met were annoyed because other people wouldn’t change, and either didn’t do or see things their way. When there were differences in race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation between people, it was even more stressful and people had additional fear and discomfort. With this came feelings of powerlessness and often confusion.

Let me give you an example. One manager I worked with was relationship oriented and got things done by getting to know people first. She worked with another manager who didn’t invest in this relationship building at the front end, who she thought was indifferent, and who was therefore stressing her out. As it turned out, the other manager happened to be more task oriented than she was. He still built relationships, but he did so with his team during the task, not before it. And he was just as productive. In other words, it wasn’t that he didn’t get things done or didn’t invest in his team, he just had a different way of doing things.

When the manager I was working with understood that they accomplished the same amount only in different ways, she no longer focused on “how wrong” the other manager was. And as a result, her stress levels dropped. It meant no more frustration when he got straight to task, no more anxiety that he was negatively impacting organizational performance, and no more subtle attempts to get him to do more relationship-building during meetings.

The reality is, it takes a lot of energy to try to control other people and get them to be just like you. In stress management, we talk about determining what you can change and what you can’t–in other words, what you need to let go of. Think about it for a moment.

When it comes to diversity, when you are able to accept differences, and realize that you don’t need to control everyone else, you’ll feel your stress load lighten.

To accept differences, we have to understand differences, and there is no better way to do this than to learn to communicate with people who are different than you. People who interact across difference begin to understand why other people behave or speak differently than themselves. They learn how to ask questions, give feedback and be more comfortable with other people. They also begin to differentiate between behaviors that interfere with productivity and those that have nothing to do with effectiveness but are just different.

Simma Lieberman

Author Simma Lieberman

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