Reducing Stress in Other People

As you see from a previous post it is possible that you create stress by your interactions with others (Does Your Conversation Create Stress in Others?). What can you do to turn that around and reduce their stress?

Going back to an example from another post on your need to talk about the frustration of your traffic jam experience (Do Your Relationships Deepen Over Time?). Your partner hears the words, traffic jam, and their own traffic jam story pops into their head. Without any listening to you they talk about that. You are left hanging with no chance to let off steam. The failed attempt to share an experience with your partner may have left you feeling even more stressed than before.

From the opposite point of view, do you ever behave like that with other people; hear their first sentence, then just go into your own story? Daniel Kahneman (2011) might say that you do. (Thinking Fast and Slow. Penguin Books).

One of the things you can do to reduce stress in others is take a real interest in what other people are going through. To convey to someone that you are interested in their life, it is not enough to say you are interested. To be authentic, your caring for another person needs to show in your behaviour towards them, for example by allowing them time to talk whilst you listen. That may help reduce their stress. A bit of letting off steam can provide a sense of relief from tension.

To enable people to let off steam the main thing is to refrain from talking yourself. When you hear someone talking about a stressful experience and a similar story from your own life pops into your head, do not talk about it. Stay quiet and listen. If your talker needs a bit of encouragement, from time to time during their story, a mild prompt along the lines of, “Tell me more about that,” will probably be enough.

“Thank you for listening.” Have you ever heard someone say that? I imagine you have, but not very often. When something is rare it is valuable. You can be valuable to others when you listen.

What do you think?

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