Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Coping: why and how

In our every day lives most of us have developed some sort of routine. Whether it's getting up and going to work, getting up and taking care of our kids or whatever else the case may be. Most of us also have problems that are associated with our developed routines. Some are big, some are small, some affect us in the long run and some are only just a pain at the moment. The reactions we take to solve these problems, or divert them may only seem like second nature to us, but in fact there is an intricate science to coping.

 Coping: the process of managing taxing circumstances, expending effort to solve personal and interpersonal problems, and seeking "to master, minimize, reduce or tolerate stress or conflict."

The ways in which people react to things are usually learned behaviors. Coping in some ways isn't any different. If a person has been taught to "turn the other cheek" on the playground when being bullied, this behavior can transcend into adult life and cause the same person to use very passive tendencies as a means to cope with every day situations, IE: an aggressive boss. In this case, the person who has been taught to not use confrontation as a coping mechanism, is most likely to keep quiet, and not respond to his or her boss's verbal abuse, or inappropriate outbursts.

But what does that do to the psyche?

In some cases coping by means of avoidance, or not addressing the issues at hand can lead to displaced behavior, that is, shifting the intended action from one thing onto another. We've all met those people, who say nothing at work to avoid confrontation but are grumpy and antisocial when they get home or when around friends. Avoiding certain conflicts as they happen can also send people into a state of denial, where they convince themselves what they witnessed or went through was not as bad as it seems, or not as bad as it could have been. This is more likely to keep a person in a problematic situation, and create a cycle which is not easily broken. Avoiding situations can also cause on to be repressed and unwilling to talk or think about uncomfortable situations.

How to deal:
Here is my best advice.

I do not ever encourage violence. I believe most problems especially in professional or adult atmospheres can be reached by simply agreeing to disagree. Understand that there is a basic social order and one element of that is that you deserve respect on the very basic principle that you are human too. Meaning, you have the right and duty to speak up when you feel you are being wronged. Reacting impulsively and solely on emotion is not recommended. Take a deep breathe, or two, or ten, and look whoever it is that is disrespecting you in the eye and in a calm, even tone say, "I understand we have different view points on this subject however, I would appreciate it if you would lower your voice, because I'm sure we can reach a mutual understanding without resorting to insults, and disrespect." Then opt to re-address the issue once the person you are speaking to has calmed down. Not only will it freeze whoever you are speaking to in their tracks, because people do not expect calm reactions when they themselves are acting poorly, but it will also establish your ground with people for future issues. It will demonstrate that you are willing to engage in discussions and take the heat when you need to, but you will not tolerate unnecessary aggression from anyone.


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