Jay Rifenbary

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Simmer Down – A Key To Professionalism

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One of the first tests in determining a level of our own personal emotional security is our proficiency in handling stressful and pressure packed situations. To create a successful communicative working atmosphere, and a harmonious home environment it is essential that individuals maintain a level of emotional self-control when challenged with difficult decisions, tasks and personnel interactions. What is the danger of “losing it” in the work place, and at home? The primary consequence is a serious deterioration in communication between all individuals involved in an emotional melt down taking place. For example, if I am part of an organization where leaders and colleagues become emotional volcanoes when faced with stress and difficult decisions, constructive communication immediately declines.

The behavioral culprit that spurs this decline is typically verbal abuse, and is a key indicator in evaluating ones ability or inability to handle situations in a mature and professional manner. How can one think clearly and respond rationally when one is being verbally attacked? They cannot, and as a result the shut down of any proactive listening begins. In addition, the desire to avoid further communication with the attacking individual is initiated because no one wants to associate themselves, nor be in an environment where the opportunity to be on the receiving end of verbal abuse exists. The result is a sequence of events that take place. Subsequent to the verbal abuse being initiated, communication deteriorates, therefore the flow of information breaks down, and if the flow of information breaks down how could any organization be as efficient, productive, and profitable as they possibly could be when people are not talking with one another? Once again, they cannot. On the home front, why would a child want to listen to the instructions of a parent when the parent has a historical consistency of screaming and verbally humiliating the child? They will not. As a result, the child avoids and turns off any desire to listen, and typically responds with the same tone and degrading verbiage as the parent. Thus, the child learns to handle stress and conflict in the same manner as the parent, resulting in and creating a new future verbally abusive parent.

Former Saturday Night Live star Cheri Oteri would humorously say in one of her skits, “simmer down”. Performance under pressure is the key to determining ones inner strength, confidence and emotional stability. I define “performance under pressure” as “an indication of ones professionalism” and define professionalism as “emotional patience”. It is paramount that our behavior reflects a high degree of professionalism when dealing with conflict, stress and pressure. The key is being patient with our emotions and how we react to them. This emotional patience stems from our security with our personal core values, providing the inner strength to be proficient at handling difficult situations. If I squeeze an orange what comes out, grapefruit juice, apples juice, cranberry juice? Of course not, just orange juice is extracted. The same is true with human beings. When a person is squeezed, i.e. put under stress and pressure what’s inside comes out. For example, if an individual is internally frustrated, resentful, discontent, and jealous, to name a few destructive characteristics, I doubt seriously that the individual would display a kind, loving, and compassionate demeanor when put under emotional pressure.

Patience is still a virtue and emotional reactivity to any situation is the barometer in evaluating our success with that virtue. Personal core values provide the building blocks to solidify a foundation of strength against life’s pressures and stresses, and to maintain a high level of professionalism that demonstrates superior leadership. Have fun, be that positive example, and enjoy the stress relieving benefits of simmering down.



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