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Diplomacy in Action

Long Term Preventative Techniques


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Stress management techniques that we will introduce you to now and spend more time working with in other chapters of this book are healthy life long habits or on­going strategies that can prevent the occurrence of stress or at least keep it manageable.

Walk & Talk is a successful stress management technique because it allows an outlet for discussing troublesome situations before they get out of control. By using a physical activity to improve the opportunity, the quality, and the intimacy of verbal communication, we are able to have uninterrupted opportunity to share thoughts and feelings. The concept is simple. Unlike the exercise type of walking described as a stress buster where the objective is to walk fast enough to be unable to talk and to keep the pulse rate high enough to burn up epinephrine, the "walk & talk" routine requires walking slowly to encourage and facilitate talking. Teachers can use "walk & talk" very effectively while moving a class to or from recess, lunch, or an activity. Parents might use "walk & talk" effectively at a mall or on an outdoor nature trail. Friends might use the time together walking home from school or going anywhere they desire. The basic technique is simple. While walking begin the discussion on the topic of choice. It can be selected and introduced by either party. The structure for "walk & talk" experiences is outlined below.

The Seven Basic Rules Of "Walk & Talk" 

1. Only two people do a "walk & talk".

2. Avoid eye contact.

3. Interruptions are allowed.

4. Tangential discussion is allowed.

5. Questions are allowed.

6. The conversation isn't over until it is over.

7. But either party may request a delay of "walk talk".

The rules of "walk and talk" are very important. Only having two people engaged allows for conversational intimacy. The two may have this intimacy in a public place like a shopping mall, or an athletic field, but it is important to have only two participants in a "walk & talk". Eye contact is avoided to keep emotional response and involvement to a minimum. Interruptions are allowed to give either party a respite from the potential seriousness of the conversation. Tangential discussion is permitted to allow for an in depth exploration of possible relevant but undiscovered issues. Questions provide for clarification of issues for either or both parties. Importantly, the conversation may need to be continued until both parties have arrived at personal end points. Hence the conversation isn't over until it is over for both parties. Finally, either party may request a delay of the "walk &talk" to allow sensitive or delicate issues or tough challenges to be handled in manageable increments.

Family or class meetings are wonderfully effective stress management tools if used correctly and appropriately. Used inappropriately, they can have the reverse effect and cause significant stress. They can improve the quality of communications, clarify expectations, and allow for participants to share in a safe and loving environment. Or they can encourage poor communications, confuse expectations, and establish a climate of animosity dislike. Groups do not have to be related to each other to have family or class meetings. They can be groups or clubs or gatherings of individuals who share common interests, issues, and problems. They should also have mutual respect for members of the group. Not all family issues or decisions should be decided at family meetings. "Because I am the Dad/Mom and I said so!" Is still an important tactic for some decision making. For teachers it would be "Boss, Not Boss!" sometimes! Family and class meetings are appropriate when you want to increase consensus, build esteem, improve ownership and understand issues. The six considerations for family or class meetings are outlined in the box below.

Six rules for Family Meetings

1. The agenda should be announced, published or circulated before the meeting. Any member of the group can call the meeting or provide input for the agenda.

2. Each participant gets one vote.

3. There is no single veto or ruling authority. 

4. Each participant gets equal time.

5. Each participant may speak without interruption, but clarifying questions may be asked after statements.

6. Goals should be identified after the meeting using the SMART goal system which is explained in the next few paragraphs.

During a family or a class meeting, it is important to allow equal opportunity. If we were to use a family meeting to discuss where to go on vacation or a class meeting to discuss where a field trip should be, necessary logical determinations should have been completed. Don't ask where do we go on vacation? Ask should we go camping, to the beach, or visit relatives if those are the three workable choices. Disneyland or Mars may not be the options you want to hear. The equal time, equal vote, and uninterrupted comment time fosters ownership and esteem. Questions are allowed for clarification. Published agendas give participants time to think before the meeting to improve the quality of the thought, comment, and participation. Finally the goals of the meeting should be SMART.

SMART goals are an excellent way to manage family meetings, individual agreements and even personal expectations. The simplicity of the five components of the family meeting belies the importance and significance and the effective use of SMART goals. It is a simple, easy to understand and explain system described below:

Specific - everyone has the same understanding.

Measurable - everyone will know when we have met our goal.

Achievable - everyone will be able to accomplish their specific task.

Relevant - everyone will buy into our goal because it is Relevant to them.

Time limited - everyone knows the due date!

Time Management is an important stressor. When asked what stresses them the most, adults often report time management issues. There aren't enough minutes or hours in a day or days in a week. It is the same for children. Our stress management research showed time management issues for EVERY group of children interviewed. That shouldn't be a surprise. Children learn from adult models. We poorly manage time. Children learn poor time management. In Chapter 4: All about Time we will spend more time explaining how to help manage the very predictable 1,440 minutes available every single day-today, and again tomorrow, and so on. The reality is that we can't manage time. We need to manage the things that we do with our time and that will take a whole chapter. For now, let's commit to agreeing that we will learn to be a better manager of the things we do with our time. Improved time management allows us to accomplish more. Goal setting helps us to accomplish the things that we find most meaningful. More in Chapter 4!

Understanding Your Personality Style. In one of the schools where we were working with high school juniors, we helped them look at issues involving differences in style. We worked with the students to help them identify their individual personality profiles. We, then, analyzed how those styles related to other people in their lives. During the class, a 17 -year-old girl apparently had a revelation and blurted out, "Now I understand that my dad really does love me. He just doesn't show it with physical affection. He never hugs me but he does love me." At that moment this girl realized what some of us might never understand. What excites, frightens, emboldens, interests, bores, rouses curiosity or moves me may not be the same thing that excites, frightens, emboldens, interests, bores, rouses curiosity or moves you. We have different personality styles. Understanding styles helps us to minimize stress by changing expectations to reality. Expectations about what we need from the environment and what we can provide tend to be related to our individual personality types. The knowledge of style can seriously reduce stress in our lives. In Chapter 3 we will discuss Personality Prototypes as a model for understanding who we are. In Chapter 6 we will explore how the knowledge of style will help us relate to others. It might just all be about understanding relationships.

Communications and Image Management. I know you think you know what I said, but did you know what you heard wasn't what I meant! Huh?

Communications and understandings are a significant stress management tool. Miscommunication, misunderstandings add to the unnecessary complexity of life and the inappropriate raising of stress levels. In chapter Five on Communications we will spend significant time talking about and reviewing ways to reduce stress by improving communications. There, we will review how to deliver and receive "I Messages", how to be assertive but not aggressive, how to identify our communication styles. We will also explore the idea of image management. How do your dress, tone of voice, and the words we use project a personal image? We will determine whether or not we are sending out the message we intended. We will focus on how to project who we really are and provide strategies for putting ourselves in the right light so that no one ever says to us...

'What we've got here is a failure to communicate."

Camp Commandant (Strother Martin) in the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke



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