Reducing Generalized Anxiety -- Stop and Look

After having tried Thriving in Diversity, Overturning Persistent Ignorance, and Managing Conflict, only to find that nothing has worked, perhaps now it may be time to STOP those methods and think about hidden listening difficulties, some caused by anxiety.

There are entire corporations, communities, and churches where conflict has generalized, perhaps over generations, to permeate the culture with an undercurrent of anxiety. I believe most systems we know carry some level of generalized anxiety.

For Reducing Generalized Anxiety, the STOP includes stop talking, get some distance, and find a good listener outside the system and its culture. The anxiety tries to push a person to keep talking, jump in to fix something, or make a confidant within the system.

For Reducing Generalized Anxiety, the LOOK requires an honest and perceptive answer to this question: Is someone talking for someone else? Most organizations use sometimes lengthy or convoluted channels for passing information and directives.

For Reducing Generalized Anxiety, LOOK for and notice blaming, copy-catting, gossip, indirectness, polarization, and/or triangling. Notice the feeling of being less than one's best, as if one is not oneself in that setting. Notice sources of these if they're obvious.

For Reducing Generalized Anxiety, remember the aim is to make one's own corner of the system a better place to be rather than to fix the entire culture. LOOK for and avoid the hooks that seek to pull people into the system by talking for someone else.

Some of the ideas for this article come from Friedman, Edwin H. Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue. New York: Guilford Press, 1985.

Copyright 2014 Wilma Zalabak