How to Better Handle a Stressful Situation

What fun would it be for an attorney to have a job with less stress? Give it a try and see for yourself. Attorneys are famous for their stressful jobs, but there are steps you can take to turn it down at least a little bit. Chris Charyk, writing in The Muse, suggests mindfulness can help you deal with stressful situations.  Whether you’re new at the legal profession or a seasoned pro, Charyk states you should try the STOP technique when confronted with a stressful situation.

  • He says it can help you be focused, alert, relaxed, and at your emotional best during a stressful moment in your life.  This four step mental checklist could be useful anytime you can use some fresh energy, creativity or insight into whatever is challenging you. The idea behind is that by taking a very brief break you can better decide how to proceed.
    • Stop: Stop what you are doing. Pause your thoughts and actions. Take a time out.
    • Take: Take a few deep breaths, center yourself and allow yourself to be fully present in the moment.
    • Observe: What’s going on with your body (What sensations are you experiencing (touch, sight, hearing, taste, smell)?), emotions (What are you feeling?) and mind (What assumptions are your making about your feelings? What are you telling yourself about why you are having these feelings?).
    • Proceed: Proceed with what you’re doing and make an intentional choice to incorporate what you just learned.

    How could you put this to use? You’re helping a client with a negotiation and he’s accused of acting in bad faith, he’s not interested in a settlement, the negotiation is just a ruse and he’s going to do whatever he wants to do. You’re not used to having a client blatantly accused of wrongdoing and you want to respond the best way possible, so you…

    • Stop: You write down the issue and pause.
    • Take: A few deep breaths.
    • Observe: You feel your stomach tighten and your breathing is a little shallower, the comment has surprised you and you might be a little unsure, so you try to figure out why this is being said. Does the other party honestly believe this (Has anything been said or done to give this impression?) or are they the ones playing games?
    • Proceed: You tell the other party your client wouldn’t be wasting his time, your time and their time if he wasn’t open to resolving the issue. You ask them why they think your client is acting in bad faith.

    Negotiations aren’t a race. You don’t need to instantly pounce after the other party says something or states a position. Take a break, observe, think, then move forward. Someone might think you’re a little “slow” but more likely you’ll be seen as being thoughtful, someone thinking through the situation to get to the root cause of the problem and come up with a solution both sides can live with.

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