“Do you have time to talk me off a ledge?” This was a text I got last Sunday from a frustrated colleague and friend. That kicked off the first of numerous discussions I had with people during the week about behavior issues. And trust me, concerns are evident on numerous levels – between teachers and students… parents and their children… administrators and parents…
Conflict surfaces quickly during periods of high stress, which explains a lot. Given all the crazy events of this year, I believe we are seeing the cumulative effect of how stress builds up in the brain and body – and more importantly, how it spills over into our behaviors.
It is important to remember that we all deal with frustration in different ways. And because at times we can’t pinpoint and articulate the exact source of our stress, our outward behaviors do the talking for us – which isn’t always pretty.
When people are overly stressed, their impulsive reactions often override their thoughtful responses. Simply put, they don’t always think before they speak. Their behaviors spill out before they have a chance to filter them – and the higher the stress, the more likely this is to happen.
I recommend giving people the benefit of the doubt and extending grace. Grace is courteous goodwill – at least that’s one definition. I like the word grace, because in addition to showing courtesy, as a Christian, it reminds me to see the humanity in people – to look beyond their challenging behaviors and see our shared human, and sometimes frustrating, experiences.
I believe we are all coping the best way we know how. And because we don’t know all the internal stressors people are dealing with, I recommend being patient when responding to their external behaviors, no matter how outlandish they might be. Show some grace to others – and hopefully they will do the same in return.