We’ve heard that anxiety spreads like wildfire. And it does. “Negative thoughts spread like fast-growing vines,” people have said. One person’s fear and worry can ignite the same in others, and soon everyone is panicked.
Well the opposite is true as well. Positive thoughts can also spread, and ease the panic. Calming thoughts can damper the fire.
There was a terrorist scare near where I live this past week. News reports warned that an attack was planned for 2pm at a university somewhere just outside of Philadelphia.
I have a good friend who works at one of the universities outside of Philadelphia, and she was understandably concerned about going to work. “Should I go?” she asked her husband, as her worry increased. “Should I go or should I stay home?”
“Of course go,” he answered, the voice of reason. “It will be fine. It was probably a stunt by a student who didn’t want to go to class. And besides, you have to live your life.”
My friend, of course, agreed, and proceeded to get ready to head off to work. Then her phone rang. It was her daughter, who was at school. “Mom,” she said, “there’s going to be a terrorist attack at a university outside of Philly. Don’t go to work!”
“Don’t worry,” my friend responded. “It will be fine. Of course I have to go. Besides, it was probably a stunt by a student who didn’t want to go to class. You have to live your life.”
My friend’s daughter was somewhat calmed. At least calmed enough.
Then 2pm came. My friend’s daughter was in class with her schoolmates, who were also worried about the supposed attacks. “What if something happens?” one asked. “What if something awful is happening?”
“Don’t worry,” my friend’s daughter responded. “I’m sure it’s fine. It was probably a stunt by a student who didn’t want to go to class.” Everyone in the class laughed. “Yes,” the teacher added. “It could have just been a stunt.”
The calming words and the easing of anxiety spread like wildfire, just as the anxiety had in the first place. One voice of reason started a domino effect – a domino effect that relieved the fear and let them all go on living their lives.
There are times when we can be the voice of reason – the calming effect – when others are anxious or getting worked up. “What if they don’t like our idea?” a team member may ask. “What if they do?” we can respond. “What if there are layoffs, or everything changes?” whispered rumors may fly. “I haven’t heard anything,” we can answer.
There’s a saying, “don’t trouble trouble until trouble troubles you.” As leaders we can remember to do our best to calm the worry and ease the anxiety, so that we have the energy to handle the real issues and challenges when they actually arise.
Where are you adding fuel to a negative fire? Where can you ease worry?
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