In the interest of helping you identify and then support your loved one, friend or colleague through the tough times. People don’t usually notice or associate stress based behaviour for what it is. Many of us put it down to people being weird, aggressive, stupid, quiet, egotistical, etc. In fact a great deal of that “weird” behaviour is actually because the person is not coping. I hope the following really brief intro assists you identify and understand it for what it is. This is by no means ‘the answer’ because we are all a little more complex than this article can cover. Drop me a line if you want to go a little deeper.
Supporting stressed people: pattern 1 of 9
This stressed person is super critical of most things. Their conversation is heavily focused on right and wrong. On what should be done, what is ‘right’ and ‘good’. They are sensitive to criticism and may take a lot of things as criticism which aren’t. They can get quite angry in discussions but not aggressive.
Approach: Offer your thoughts and opinions rather than directly disagreeing and arguing with them. Understand the ”wrong’ that’s being done and talk it through. Apologise if you have made a mistake. Pay a little extra attention to playing to the rules exactly.
This should get you to a neutral place where the real conversations can start; other opinions may be considered and other characteristics like spontaneity, emotions, long term thinking etc should start to show. Thinking rather than reactions.
Supporting stressed people: pattern 2 of 9
This person pulls away from everything in life. From friends, family, activities. Usually a warm and caring person they will be avoiding interaction to avoid conflict (ther own or with others). Also while normally indecisive the inability to make choices becomes extreme to the point it is clearly frustrating and stressful for them.
Approach: Work on providing a safe environment in which conflcts can be discussed without threat of them getting worse. Through your understanding of who they are, help them talk about and firmly identify personal goals, decisions they are putting off, how they can deal with conflicts. Without pushing or demanding it.
Supporting stressed people: pattern 3 of 9
This may come as a surprise to some but this person focuses on success at all costs. Yes it can be a bad thing 🙂 This focus comes with a certain lack of balance or perspective. There is also additional focus on looking perfect and being the best at their chosen goal(s) in life. This could be anything from career to hobbies to relationships. They will want to keep busy and may become very competitive. An interesting trait for this person is that they change around different groups or people to continue to be perceived as successful / the best. Even if that image or what they say is totally contradictory. They may even stretch the truth or tell selective truths so they are seen in the best light. From an outsiders perspective it may appear two-faced or artificial. This person is also somewhat aggressive in their pursuit of success, people others than those value being successful for aren’t overly important.
Approach: Provide the sense of achievement they are looking for. It may seem fake and that you are just stroking their ego but it is an essential step in opening their perspective. Making them successful and encouraging them to think about group dynamics/impacts, long term thinking and/or creativity will bring back a well-rounded but driven individual.
Supporting stressed people: pattern 4 of 9
Becomes more paranoid than usual…. will usually be either quiet or fairly aggressive as they look for those that are out to get. They are great talkers and have an uncanny ability to know just what to say. This also makes it a real challenge when trying to help.
Approach: Be consistent with what you say and do. You need to show you can be trusted. Without being false you may also need to actively demonstrate you can be trusted and are on their side. It may require a family member or long term friend most the time. Then start to help them see what is really there. Also, helping them get some quick wins at whatever they value will help.
Supporting stressed people: pattern 5 of 9
This person becomes overly generous. While this is a great trait we all look for, in this case the purpose and effect it has on others is not ideal. The giving becomes over the top and is only allowed one way. It can leave those around them feeling obligated to return favours. But they aren’t allowed, so usually end up resentful. Then finally this generous person tends to become angry when their generosity is not always appreciated – and wipes you off the xmas list 🙂
Approach: We do need to persist recognising the all the generosity. The key with this person is that it will be up to you to ensure there is balance in the relationship. If you are a significant person to them then find ways of making them feel important aside from appreciating the gifts. You may notice an element of their usual personality is missing; maybe long term planning/dreaming. Or that usual spontaneous side they have when at their best. Help them find those elements again.
Supporting stressed people: pattern 6 of 9
On the home stretch now…… as always I am keen to hear your thoughts on this series of info. Anyone relate to any of them?
This person escapes. It comes across as an unwillingness to think, talk or deal with negativity. A significant focus is placed on enjoyment in preference to all things. You will have difficulty locking them into firm plans and trying to do so may cause some anger. New, different, fascinating experiences are the goal without care or responsibility.
Approach: Allow flexibility as far as practical and understand they will look for “outs” in even the firmest commitments. Be patient. Make sure they know they are valued for that vibrant personality and energy. Focus on framing conversations (even the tough ones) in a positive light. Attaching requests for change or problems to opportunities for new experiences, exciting opportunities will help them digest the thoughts. Help them work through the negatives in small steps. And finally, introduce emotional, big picture and logic when possible.
Supporting stressed people: pattern 7 of 9
This one is me…
This person retreats into a shell and will be seeking contact, contribution and relationships that makes them feel valuable/important. They will come across as emotional, perhaps at an extreme they will be quite melancholic. Emphasis will be placed on connections, on deeper meanings to life etc. They will talk about ideals… that could be work, relationships, life.. anything really. The theme is that there is something better is out there somewhere.
Approach: Keep in touch. Small efforts go a long way. No special story or approach needs to be created. This person gains a lot from just knowing people are around. Stepping it up a notch would include letting them know how valuable they are. And seeking their opinion and skills, even if they aren’t required.
Supporting stressed people: pattern 8 of 9
This person is similar to two others already discussed in that they retreat. The main difference here is that they really go bye bye. Like hermit style. This person probably already likes facts and figures, values knowledge and will be emotionally detached; all these become more obvious and constant under stress.
Engage this person on their interest area. Value them for their knowledge and skills with the details. Any discussions need to be concrete and factual if you want them to see other perspectives. Back off on the demands and give them some space to move; you may not think you are being demanding but to them very subtle things can be. If they are usually spontaneous then talk to them and work them on spontaneity and new things. If they are more planners then focus there. They may also usually be success focused, help them find and identify some wins again. If they are usually group/family/team oriented then get them involved again.
Supporting stressed people: pattern 9 of 9
The big finale. This person is all about justice, power or control. They will probably become possessive and controlling over their environment and anyone important to them. They are already a fairly intense person and under stress this only increases in an ‘all or nothing’ style approach. Showing weakness will be the last thing they do but ironically it may be the most helpful. This person will probably also become more autonomous / independent to ensure they get what they want.
Approach: Clarity is the key with this person. Ensure you prepare and think through what you are going to say before engaging in those important conversations. Avoid conversations which turn into power struggles; they may try and drag you in. Instead show respect, honesty, clarity and firmness of your position.