Don’t Voluntarily Take On Other People’s Anxiety, If You Can Avoid It

Don’t Voluntarily Take On Other People’s Anxiety, If You Can Avoid It

You’ve got enough going on in your life. Your bills, your job, your relationships and your insecurities add up to a lot of anxiety for yourself. So don’t make your anxiety worse by taking on the anxiety other people try to dump on you.

Photo by Pabak Sarkar.

As designer Mike Monteiro explains on Dear Design Student, anxiety is conductive. If someone is anxious about a problem, they want to make it someone else’s problem as well. Sharing the anxiety validates that feeling and helps offload that burden. For example, if your client is stressed about a deadline, they may want to pass that worry onto you. If you’re freaked out about it too, you’ll prioritise it more, or at least make them feel better about being worried. Except this kind of transferred anxiety often just makes matters worse and it doesn’t lead to good productivity:

The trick to dealing with an anxious client is two-fold. First, remain calm. Nothing good happens otherwise. You are the expert this person hired. Behave it. Imagine slicing your finger open cutting a bagel. You freak out. You wrap it all up. You go to the emergency room. Do you want your doctor to scream when she sees it, or to look at it and very calmly say “Let’s take care of that.” Be the calm doctor.

Of course, anxiety isn’t a switch you can just turn off. The reason anxiety likes to transfer itself from one person to another is because it’s effective. If someone you work with is panicked, it’s easy for you to get swept up in that as well. However, if you can remind yourself that some of your anxiety actually belongs to someone else — and therefore, it’s OK to let it go and simply focus on the problem at hand — you might be able to reduce your own.

Stop Adopting Other People’s Anxiety [Dear Design Student]

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