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2-Second Stress Cures

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Conversation Savers

1. "I don't know."

The topic at your friend's cocktail party is a best-selling novel (which you haven't read) or the latest political upheaval in the Middle East (which you skimmed over in the paper). You don't want to seem stupid or uninformed, so when another party-goer asks for your opinion, you scramble for an answer.

The stress you experience in these situations arises from an in-the-moment misperception that you need to have a "perfect" response, explains Patricia Farrell, PhD, a psychologist in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, and author of How to Be Your Own Therapist: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Competent, Confident Life (McGraw-Hill, 2004). When you don't, your blood-pressure level can rise.

Next time you're put on the spot, be honest and say, "I don't know." "By admitting your ignorance, you relieve the pressure immediately," says Farrell. "The reality is that the world won't collapse if you don't always have an answer. And unless you usually keep company with 13-year-old boys, nobody's going to snicker at you for not knowing something."

Finally, the beauty of saying "I don't know" is that instead of standing silently (and worrying that you'll be found out), you can slide your way into a conversation by asking others to fill you in on the topic ("I'm not familiar with that book. Can you tell me about it?"). Most people will be happy to oblige and may even feel flattered that you asked them to share their knowledge.

2. "Let me get back to you on that."

Your boss asks a question about a client, and your mind goes blank. Or a needy neighbor asks you to join her cooking club -- sounds fun, but committing to spending more time with her might not be the best idea. When you're floundering for the right words, the best thing to say is, "Let me get back to you."

It's easy to get flustered when you're caught off-guard, and a rash response or snap judgment can come back to hurt you later, says Farrell. So even if you're talking to someone you want to impress (like your boss), this phrase makes you sound more in control and buys you time to formulate the appropriate response -- or at least one that's in your own best interest.

3. "That's an interesting point."

Whether you're arguing with your husband over a new paint color for the kitchen or debating whether Hillary should run for president, disagreements can be a huge source of ongoing tension (especially if you're both stubborn or there's no one right answer).

Instead of thinking, "I'm right and you're wrong," acknowledge the other person's point of view, suggests Farrell. This doesn't mean you have to agree. Rather, it reminds you to slow down and take time to listen, which reduces the need to barrel down your opposition in order to make your point. "Your interaction naturally becomes more agreeable, so the conversation is more pleasant overall," she says.

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kt_dancer21292 wrote:

I agree with the above comments! This article seemed to come at the perfect time with the school year beginning again. Lots of things that seem stressful. Thank you for helping me put things in perspective!

9/11/2012 01:08:50 PM Report Abuse
pweber7 wrote:

I found several hints (and things you shouldn't do that I do) that should help me. Great story.

9/11/2012 11:45:23 AM Report Abuse
cathypecoraro wrote:

Great Story- very helpful to put things that seem big at the moment into perspective.

9/11/2012 11:06:50 AM Report Abuse

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