Reduce Stress — You Know You Want to . . .


I’ll put it in a few words: our mouths cause us so much needless stress. Let’s take this further. Imagine if your personal brand included: “Good listener.” (By the way, your personal brand is your answer to this question: “What are you best known for?”)
What would result if people perceived you as a good listener? Many of them would feel comfortable around you and they’d trust you. Research demonstrates that many of the best salespeople are the best listeners. To reduce stress, we’ll use the L.E.S.S. process:
L – listen
E – ease up
S – select Criteria for Excellence
S – sidestep resistance
1. Listen
I have a relative who couldn’t listen to another person if his life depended on it. It’s tragic really. This person misses so much of what is warm and genuine in life. And imagine what his family misses, too. This guy has only one friend. He’s dropped everyone else. And they’re probably saying, “Thank you. Thank you!”
On the other hand, people who listen well often find that people like them and offer them more opportunities.
The central element of listening is restraining yourself from making reactive comments. Pause. See if you can make space for the person to experience what he or she is feeling. Even saying something as simple as “That sounds frustrating,” can give the person an opportunity to relax. If we do not give the other person space to be heard, then he or she feels a tension to prove the self right. You reduce stress by listening and thus eliminating such tension.
I’ve noticed that certain times I have felt upset as an elderly relative denied that I was under pressure. One person likes to say, “You chose that.” Sure, I’ve chosen to run businesses, but I did not resign from the human race and eliminate feeling pressure. A simple comment like: “That sounds rough. How did things go for you?” would be helpful.
2. Ease up
Some people try too hard. You can see them straining. The best actors “make it look easy.” In my book Darkest Secrets of Making A Pitch for Film and Television (free chapters on , I write about one of my methods to relax before I give a pitch. I tell myself: “Let’s see if they want to play.” That’s part of my process to “ease up.”
The idea of “want to play” brings the interaction out of the emotional brain’s perception of “life or death.”
Another part of “ease up” is to relax and let the other person say what he or she needs to say first. When two people meet and talk, each one wants to express personal thoughts and feelings. When you let the other person go first, you eliminate tension. Then the person is likely to be more receptive to hearing you. This reduces stress.
3. Select Criteria for Excellence
Being a perfectionist is stressful! I know this when I try to be so compassionate and kind to everyone I meet. But sometimes I fall short because I’m distracted. There is a solution: instead of aiming for perfection, aim for excellence. What is excellence? You decide. Set up your own Criteria for Excellence. For example, I train my graduate students in my public speaking class to focus on this idea: “We do not need you to be perfect; we do need you to be genuine.” When you aim to be a real human being and express some truth (at least something that is true to you), you can take some of the pressure off. You do not need to pronounce each word perfectly. You focus on talking to the audience — and not at them.
If your mind goes blank for a moment, you can say, “I’ll need a moment. My brain needs more RAM.” And then the audience (at least in Silicon Valley) will enjoy the human moment and the humor.
4. Sidestep resistance
Resistance and conflict cause more and more stress. What if you could avoid needless resistance? How would your life improve?
Here’s the big opportunity. Add this to your personal brand: “effective storyteller.” How do you avoid a lot of needless resistance? Tell a vivid, to-the-point story.
Do not start by making some biased, blanket statement. Instead, tell a story. Give the audience (which can be one co-worker or a group in a room) an experience. Tell what you learned. It helps to end your story with something like: “So that day, I learned to pay attention to the little things because they can really trip you up — if you’re not careful.”
You can really reduce your stress, when you focus on these 4 elements:
L – listen
E – ease up
S – select Criteria for Excellence
S – sidestep resistance
Tom Marcoux,
author of 27 books (with free chapters on )
Executive Coach
Spoken Word Strategist
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