Stress can be spread to other people, just like an infection. If you find that your colleagues are always spreading their stress to you, you might be able to prevent it next time by opening your conversation with a positive comment.
Photo by highways england.
It’s difficult to actually relieve somebody else of their stress, but you can do things to keep your own stress shields up. Michelle Gielan, the author of Broadcasting Happiness: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change, suggests you open your conversations with a “power lead.” Gielan and Shawn Achor explain at Harvard Business Review:
…you can create a “power lead” to short-circuit a negative encounter. The first comment in a conversation often predicts the outcome. Try to start your phone calls not with “I’m swamped” or “I’m so busy.” Instead, start with a breath and calmly say: “It’s great to talk to you.”
With this strategy, you’re neutralising the stressful vibe for them a little, and you’re keeping yourself from saying something that builds the stress for both you. You can even use a power lead with nonverbals. If they cross their arms and grimace, fire back with a smile and a nod of understanding. You’re not the one who is stressed out, so don’t let others rub it off on you. For more tips on beating back secondhand stress, check out the link below.
Make Yourself Immune to Secondhand Stress [Harvard Business Review]