One of the many challenges of responding to COVID-19 has been keeping team members, customers, subcontractors and others upbeat when there are few answers and an apparent no end to the challenges created by the global pandemic. On top of numerous uncertainties, we seem to be living in a time of toxicity. Just look at the recent presidential election and other political campaigns. Negativity can have toxic effects, claims the Mighty, an organization that provides health information and brings people together to discuss specific health issues. The company recently surveyed 70,000 individuals who reported that their top three emotions were frustration, worry and anger. The number of individuals choosing anger as one of their top emotions doubled from March to September 2020.
We all know the challenges of dealing with angry and rude customers. Research shows that rudeness decreases performance and hampers memory. When you encounter a rude individual, it is challenging to offer helpful solutions and communicate effectively. How can you and your team members effectively respond to rude and angry people?
Step One: Avoid negativity. Consider the media that you watch and read. Negative messages can be especially harmful. Account for your language. No one has more control over your thoughts and messages than you. Advise your team that they do have control and encourage them to see the glass as half full as often as they can. Instead of saying, "This is the worst supply fulfillment environment we have ever seen," rephrase to "Supply chains are particularly challenging right now, but if we can work together, we can overcome the challenges and ensure projects proceed as planned."
Step Two: Be neutral. Negative people tend to blame others for their problems and circumstances. Encouraging and adopting a positive approach and mindset puts the focus on what you can control and gives you a path to develop an action plan. Avoid judgments and negative reactions when confronting problems and challenges. Keep the focus on what you can do and what you can control instead of what you can't.
Step Three: Be grateful. You cannot overestimate the power and value of recognizing team members for what they do daily. Front-line workers are unsung heroes. Even if the situation looks dire, look for the positives and consider what you are grateful for. Expressing gratitude helps to reduce stress and offset negativity. If your team appears down, encourage individual team members to identify some of the positives that have resulted from the pandemic, such as your ability to leverage technology, improve processes and enhance communication.
Step Four: Manage your energy. Exercise. Eat healthier. Get at least eight hours of sleep a night. Exercise, health and sleep become more important during challenging times. Lack of sleep erodes self-control, and that can produce more negativity. Research has found lack of sleep increases frustration, impatience, hostility and anxiety. Lack of sleep damages relationships and reduces trust.
Step Five: Look for the silver lining at home and work. According to the Mighty's research, when you or a team member is negative, it has a four to seven times greater impact on a fellow team member's ability to be positive and energized. Offset negativity by surrounding yourself and your team with positive people and messages.
Even though there may not be a light at the end of the tunnel just yet, you can offset the adverse effects of negativity on your team and yourself by surrounding yourself with positive influences and people, being mindful of the content and media that you consume and aware of the mindset that you adapt.