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Bruzzese: Communication key to coping with workplace stress

Do you feel like no one at your workplace really listens or understands you?

If so, you’re not alone. And, if those feelings sometimes make you feel angry, depressed or frustrated, then you’re really not alone.

David Wolf, founder of the nonprofit Satvatove Institute (www.satvatove.com) in Florida, says that a lack of employee communication has led to many problems in the workplace, prompting many workers to feel that they have no control over what happens on the job. And that, he says, it what leads to so much unhappiness and dissatisfaction – not only at work, but at home.

“You have to decide: Is life happening to me or am I the author of my life?” says Wolf, a communications coach. “What is your perspective? Are you being responsible for what happens, or are you just being tossed by the waves?”

He stresses that no matter what the situation at work, we can “claim our power.”

“That means that no matter how someone might be behaving at work, we can choose how to respond,” he says.

For example, instead of getting stressed and angry when a co-worker is late with a project, you can choose to be more patient, or you can choose to admit that you’re angry, but to express it in a healthy way. (“I’m angry that the report is late. I need you to honor your commitments so that I don’t fall behind in my work.”)

Further, Wolf says our workplace stress and frustrations could be eased by spending more time seeing a situation from another perspective. One way to do that is by writing three different viewpoints of a situation at work that was tough. By putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, you can gain a greater understanding of how you could have reacted differently, he says.

Wolf also urges workers to spend more time with face-to-face interactions, rather than relying on e-mail or instant messaging.

“I’m not blaming technology for communication problems, but I do think it creates a barrier,” he says. “Half of what we understand from someone else comes from nonverbal communications. Even if you’re writing an old-fashioned letter, you take the time to dispassionately choose your words to convey your emotions. But with e-mail and texting, it’s the worst of both worlds – you’re missing nonverbal cues and you’re responding spontaneously, without carefully choosing your words. It can cause a lot of miscommunication.”

Wolf says it’s also important for employees to focus on what they can do to improve communications with others in order to make themselves feel more in control of job situations. Some workers, he says, fall into the “I’m a victim” trap, which can not only make them ineffective and unproductive, but bug the heck out of other people.

He is quick to point out, however, that being a victim and being victimized are two different things.

“If your house is burglarized, then that is wrong and unfair and you may feel angry or hurt. That’s being victimized. But if five years go by and you’re still complaining bitterly about how the burglar ruined your life, then you’re being a victim,” he says.

“You can’t change the past, but you can decide how you will deal with it,” Wolf says. “Some people stay in a place of bitterness and resentment because they get something out of it. They may complain and gripe and hang on to the resentment rather than change. They would rather do that than risk failure.”

Wolf, author of “Relationships That Work: The Power of Conscious Living,” (Mandala Publishing, $14.95) says that by changing the “lens” with which we look at our jobs, our colleagues and our bosses, we can change our perspective. And that, he says, is what can lead to great happiness, fulfillment and contentment in all areas of our lives.

“Understanding can be like air for us. When the wind is knocked out of us, we just want air. That’s all anyone wants, is some understanding,” he says. “If we do that for people, we can transform our workplace.”

Anita Bruzzese is author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy … and How to Avoid Them” (www.45things.com). Write to her c/o: Business Editor, Gannett News Service, 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, VA 22107. For a reply, include a SASE.

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