Under the Influence: Part 4. Social Stress
Social influencers are different from the others because they are external. Still, they can be extremely powerful in creating an environment which can add or detract from our energy and ultimately performance. A group of colleagues who collaborate well together can be incredibly helpful in managing stressful situations in our professional and personal life, for example. While an environment where people are put in the position of competing against one another can have a detrimental effect on our sense of self and may lead us to doubt our abilities.
One of my clients, Robin is still affected by an experience she had in a big corporate firm in her early days. She was very well aware that the environment was not the right fit, too rigid and hierarchical for her. Nonetheless she decided to make the best of a bad situation and stayed, only to be made redundant at the first opportunity. When she related the story to me, she mentioned a feeling of rejection. What more that traumatic experience left her with a feeling of anxiety that resurfaces when she hears noises of changes in the company where she now works and thrives..
What Robin had experienced was the full effect of an environment alien to her which had impacted on her personal sphere. Emotions always add a new level of complicacy and can drive us toward self blame. When we feel confused and powerless we eventually form the belief that if we avoid the problem, it will go away. We don't want conflict and so we carry those difficult relationship on hoping they will eventually get better. Only to find along the line that usually they don't.
So what can we do? Even if we tell ourselves we have little control over our social environment - after all, who can choose their colleagues? - we can have still a degree of control over the situation.
Evaluate your relationship
Evaluating our relationships means having a hard look at them. Decide why that relationship is important to us and what motivates us to put in the time and energy to change it.
Pat, who had a difficult relationship with her boss -"we are always at loggerhead" -, was determined to learn how to manage the relationship better. She didn't believe there was much to save there but for her, it was an ideal space to learn how to cope with similar less smooth relationships she may encounter in the future.
If you decide like Pat to give it a go, here are some questions for you to help you guide your thoughts.
1. Are these people important to me?
2. Why are they important to me?
3. Am I willing to work for these relationships?
4. What are my motivators?
5. How much time and energy am I willing to invest?
Protect yourself from the unintended consequences.
Social influencers exert a certain toll on our emotions. When we don't get along with our teammates or if we had a un unresolved conflict, we have entered the personal sphere. And not only for us but also for our counterparts. In the grip of emotions, the logic and the rational brain take a step back and we are in the realm of narrative each with its own story and interpretations. Such an environment can be incredibly toxic .The consequence of a long exposure to that toxicity will affect our confidence and sense of worth. Make sure at any given time to allow you the choice to step back, reevaluate the situation, throw in the towel and walk away.
The value of choice.
Social influencers can make us feel powerless. We can come up with an infinite list of reasons to convince us "it's not all that bad". Maybe it's us being too sensitive or overreacting. Fear of the unknown is what forces us to stay put and accept the status quo. Always remember that whatever decision you make, -save the relationship, ditch it, you are making a choice and in doing so you are taking charge. As a consequence, you have a better grasp on your emotion and see things more clearly.
When we are aware that social environments can have a big impact of our well being, we are a step closer to take to first step to tackle them. You've got this!
Good Luck! You need it