A simple question to lower your stress

I’ve been putting more energy than I would like to into fretting over other people’s behavior lately. I was talking to my friend T. about this—telling him about some recent conflicts with people who are peripheral to my life but whom I nevertheless have some unavoidable contact with, and whose actions and methods have been making me crazy. (I’ve also been getting caught up in others’ reactions to those same people’s actions and methods, which makes me even crazier.)

T. works in a corporate environment in which urgency, self-involvement and tunnel vision are part of some co-workers’ standard m.o.  He told me that his blood pressure, which has been rising as he gets older, has been a wake-up call and that he’s been rethinking his reactions in order to minimize stress. He said that when a situation pulls at him, “I’ve learned to ask myself, ‘If this person didn’t think it was a problem, would it be a problem?’”  He offered the question as one I might want to try.

I like this question. It’s helping. I’ve been using it not only as T. asks it, but also with my own twist: “If I didn’t think this was a problem, would it be a problem?”

And now I offer the question—T’s version and my take on it—to you.


  1. Janet, I like your version of the question better! I don’t know how many times people in the corporate mindset you describe have pulled versions of “hurry up and wait” on me.

    Even right now! I switched my day off this week specifically because I was asked to come in today to proofread a report that’s due tonight…and I was supposed to have it this morning. It’s after 12 noon, and I don’t have it yet. They’re going to want me to stay late. And you know what? I won’t. I’ve already gone out of my way for them, and if it was THAT important for me to proof it in a timely manner, the link to the report would have been sent to me hours ago.

    How much guilt will I feel over refusing to stay late? Zilch. There was a time when I would have, and when I would’ve thought my job was in jepoardy. I’m learning that I do have the power to call some of the shots. Nice feeling. 🙂

  2. Janet Bailey says:

    @Michelle – Glad to hear you’re holding your ground, and with zero guilt (the possibly harder part)

  3. PamJ says:

    I had to chuckle at this because I often have people ay work asking for things that are high, high, hignh priority. And then when I bust my butt to deliver they end up not using whatever it was they needed from me in the first place.

    I’ve learned that folks in my company have the attention span of a gnat and if I wait before jumping, they’ll be on to hte next thing and forget the original hot item.

  4. Janet Bailey says:

    @PamJ – I heartily approve of time management by strategic neglect. 😉

  5. Holly says:

    I didn’t want to, but I had to show this one to my husband. He refrained from saying “I’ve been telling you that!”. He’s sweet like that.

    You have such a way with words – and I love to read them.

    I have written this on an index card and am now using this question to ask myself if I indeed have a problem, or if I am just blowing it out of proportion, like my sweet hubby has been so kindly suggesting.

    Thanks for the perspective shifter.

  6. Janet Bailey says:

    @Holly – Happy this phrase is helping. And a husband who can keep from blurting out “I told you that” is definitely a keeper!

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