Resistance and Analysis Paralysis - Workplace Stress Symptom

October 6, 2020

by Pam Boney


Stress Symptom # 4: Resistance and Analysis Paralysis which can lead to stagnation if it becomes chronic.

The fourth stress reaction is a reaction to the perceived loss of value or status driven by an unconscious fear of harmful intentions by those who are more powerful. This pattern often arises from a perception of problematic and detrimental family circumstances early in life that led to a loss of hope about the world. The story (life script) manifests itself as a great effort to make things better by preparing more carefully and avoiding the many risks that may result. The stress arises whenever others initiate a change without consulting them, mainly if authority figures undertake that change. What this is about underneath is a perceived loss of value and status with influential authority figures. Since the underlying desire is to be valued and essential, the fear is they will be ignored or overlooked. This concern is because they perceive themselves as the keeper of peace and the protector from harm. The story is that "if only the others listened, they would see all of the troubles that could unfold if they don't listen to what I know." In this story, the goal is to be prepared to preserve hope. Inherent in this story's mindset is an unconscious feeling of powerlessness, which is also the greatest fear.


Two Internal Needs:

This stress reaction helps one save face with themselves by temporarily propping up the ego with a false feeling of being the keeper of all vital information that protects people from significant harm and, therefore, worthy of being consulted about every matter of importance. This short term reaction where the ego strives to be seen and heard as the wise advisor and benefactor of peace is harmless unless it becomes chronic or extreme in a way that becomes harmful to self or others.

What's good about it?

The positive aspect of this reaction is that it gives the person a quick boost of confidence to assert themselves in ways they would not usually choose. Typically quiet and withdrawn, they temporarily come alive with the courage and power to speak their minds before "the powers that be" move forward. Suddenly, they are willing to fight for integrity or what is right and surprise others with their forthrightness. A person who experiences this stress pattern is more effective when they speak up consistently along the way, rather than waiting until they notice that someone has left them behind in their decision-making process when it might be too late.

What often happens instead:

Instead of appreciating the courage required for this person to speak up and show up powerfully, many colleagues forget to include them because they are quiet most of the time. Others may assume they don't want a seat at the table, so when they finally speak up, it seems too late or experienced as stonewalling forward progress at just the wrong time. No one enjoys being ignored or left out, even temporarily. It is rarely this person's intention to be forgotten. There's a better way to handle it when we see someone who is usually quiet, suddenly stands up and speaks with convictions. If we can learn to ask them what they are worried about, we often find that they know what they are talking about and have studied many ways forward long before anyone else. It's better not to get caught up in annoyance because they rarely want to thwart our plans. Just by listening to their concerns, they will often calm down and again be the voice of reason with valuable information for the project.

A better way to respond more consciously:

A stress reaction always contains some positive effects if it doesn't go too far. It can be helpful to point out that you are noticing they want to be heard and inquire about what might be missing from the decision at hand. Merely listening to them can help them realize they should have spoken up much sooner and that others will value their knowledgeable input. This truthful information can alert them to the risk of being quiet or uninvolved along the way. If we can remain curious and ask them to assert their opinions confidently, we can benefit significantly from their perspective before proceeding forward. By showing them they are valued and respected, they can shift into their more powerful and informed voice.

The positive result:

Someone in this situation greatly appreciates the acknowledgment that all of us worry and feel hopeless sometimes. Some patience and listening are usually enough to de-escalate the emotional charge that could make them stonewall forward action. It will not help to pile on more reasons to make them feel powerless in the face of risks. When your acknowledgment of the information normalizes their behavior, they can relax, knowing you value their input. It can be helpful to get them talking, which can lower their resistance. When this happens, new energy and passion begin to flow, helping them explain all of the potential ramifications that others may miss. After all, they are excellent troubleshooters, able to see the details and analysis required to reduce problems later.

What happens if it becomes chronic?

Although acute stress can help us become more alert at the moment for a burst of energy, if it becomes chronic, it can cause harmful stress. Being constantly worried about risks will trigger a cortisol response and become habitual. In this case, there will be fretting, ruminating, and internalized negativity, but very little progress on moving forward healthily. If this becomes a regular pattern, it can cause them to lose credibility and productive relationships with others. If this happens, the best thing to do is use laser coaching to help them voice their thoughts, refrain from blaming others for moving faster, and free up energy to express themselves more clearly and succinctly.

How to use laser coaching to help someone who is spinning in overwhelm:

Laser coaching sessions can help others become aware of their patterns and how they are harming themselves or others.

Coaching questions that can increase awareness:

  • What's worrying you that you need to share with someone?
  • What part of you needs to grow up and take responsibility, if any?
  • What has you blaming those you see as more powerful than you?
  • What do you need to assert to get others to hear your valid concerns?
  • What can you do to organize your argument with more optimism?
  • What do you fear most, that others might miss without your perspective?
  • What do you know that others may not because they're not in the details?

Sometimes asking questions like these is all that's needed to raise self-awareness in someone under stress. Don't try to rush, push, or take on their work for them. As a coach, leader, or colleague, you should not try to rescue a person in resistance by doing something for them as this will only serve to validate their belief they can't assert it themselves. Click here to learn more about how to manage stress in your team.

Note: This stress reaction is most common in a CLARITY True Tilt Quiet Genius personality profile. How can you actually use this? Learn more about your specific stress reaction pattern by taking the True Tilt Personality Profile™.

View related posts: Stress Symptom # 1Stress Symptom # 2Stress Symptom # 3