Animal Training, Human Robots, and Fluffy Bunnies

Why was it that back when we were in high school the sound of the bell stripped us of all further desire to work. Or how when we think we feel a vibration we immediately reach for our phone searching for the next text message, Facebook or twitter update. Or why we immediately respond with “fine, you,” when asked how we’re doing?

The quick and easy answer is that it’s a habit, or it’s proper social etiquette. The long and complicated though infinitely more interesting answer is that we’ve been conditioned. Within behavioral psychology there are two fundamental concepts that play a role in assisting in understanding the complex behaviors we engage in every day. They are classical conditioning, and operant conditioning.

Conditioning? Are you trying to call us robots, or animals to be trained?

No, not exactly. We are animals, and sometimes we do engage in repetitious actions like robots but no, that’s not what I’m saying at all.

Adhering to KISS I’ll try to keep this as simple as possible.

Classical Conditioning: There are 4 pieces to classical conditioning. The CS:  conditioned stimulus, the UCS: unconditioned stimulus. The CR: conditioned response, and the UCR: unconditioned response.

Stop all the medical mumbo jumbo, and give it to me straight doc:

To keep everything simple we’re going to use an example, it’s actually a famous example about a man named Ivan Pavlov and his dog.

One day Ivan noticed that when his dog saw dog food, (dog food=UCS) he would begin to salivate in anticipation, (salivation=UCR). So Pavlov began to wonder, is it possible for me to make my dog salivate before he sees the food? A lot of scientific thought ensued, and the result was this, Pavlov decided that when it was Fido’s lunch time he would ring a bell (CS) moments before presenting the food.

Some days or weeks passed and Pavlov decided to check and see if there was anything to his little experiment. So one day during lunch time he rung the bell and noticed that his dog immediately began to salivate (CR) even though there wasn’t any food in the room!

That is, the core, and simplest version of what is known today as classical conditioning. Pairing a ‘generated’ stimulus with a ‘natural’ stimulus in order to cause the ‘natural’ response to occur on the ‘generated’ stimulus.

Say what?

Here’s an example that I’ve found helps me keep it all straight in my head. Imagine a friend, any friend will do, now imagine yourself smiling (CS) at the friend, follow up this smile with a pinch on their arm (UCS) your friend will then feel pain and anxiety, (UCR). Do this often enough and eventually your smile alone will be enough to make your friend feel pain and anxiety (CR).

The dark side of classical conditioning:

When I first learned about conditioning back in high school I also learned about an experiment done by a notable psychologist of his day (whose name eludes me) on a young girl, and the disastrous aftermath.

The psychologist gave the girl a fluffy white bunny (a teddy bear not the living animal) once the girl began playing with the bunny he would make a loud noise behind her, startling her and causing her to cry. After enough pairings of this, white fluffy bunny, and loud noise, he observed that just the sight of the white furry bunny would make the girl cry.

Knowing of extinction he assured the parents that the girl would be fine within a few days. Then generalization occurred. One day at home the girl came across a white fluffy blanket, upon spotting it she immediately began to cry. It was soon discovered that a white fluffy anything would make her cry, even though according to calculations extinction should have occurred.

What happened here is generalization, and that is when our conditioned stimulus spreads to everything resembling it. This is less likely to happen with older people (those of us who aren’t toddlers), although being conditioned with a stimulus that has multiple identifying features can trigger it.

OKAY…So that’s classical, what’s operant? 

Operant conditioning is a way of influencing our behavior based on the reward or punishment we receive from engaging in that behavior.

Here’s an example: we are siting in our cubicle at work when suddenly the fire alarm goes off. (This is our environment acting on us), in response we escape the building, (this is our behavior reacting to our environment), and we are then rewarded with our life and health.

That reward of safety will act as strong positive reinforcement to engage in that exact behavior the next time we hear a fire alarm.

But doc I still don’t get it!

I know, it took me a while too, and by the way I’m not a doctor, just a psychology nut.

For this example we turn to children: children go to school and receive homework. They then chose whether or not to do this homework, doing the homework rewards them with good grades and praise, not doing the homework punishes them with a loss of privileges and disappointment in those they look up to.

Or if you don’t have kids, or remember what it was like to be kid turn to your puppy.

Puppy decides that your brand new living room carpet is prime real estate to relieve himself. You catch him in the act and scold him, while hastily carrying him to the nearest exit.

Eventually puppy learns that going in the house is bad, and becomes less likely to engage in the behavior because of the associated punishment. Puppy also learns that going outside is good and becomes more likely to engage in the behavior due to the subsequent reward of pats and praise.

But wait, does this mean that every conditioning I’ve ever had stays forever:

Absolutely not, conditioning both operant and classical has a shelf life. That can vary from days or weeks to years, it depends on how strong the conditioning and associations are. However, if you are repeatedly exposed to the CS, a dog without a leash, but the dog doesn’t do anything hostile to illicit fear, soon enough that particular conditioning will fade away.

The flip side to conditioning of just about any type, is that, once you’ve been conditioned even if extinction does occur it’s a lot easier to become reconditioned with the same stimulus and response.

Where can I use this?

You can and do use both classical and operant conditioning all the time. Just about every action we engage in has an associated reward or punishment, all of those instances are instances of operant conditioning.

When we’re driving somewhere and the car in front of us suddenly breaks we react by slamming on our own breaks and having a spike in heart rate and arousal.

Then later on when we’re riding as a passenger and a car slams on the brakes in front of us, we may mimic slamming on our own invisible brakes and we have that spike in heart rate and arousal. Or if we’re watching a movie and we see a car brake abruptly, we experience that tension of the body and heightened arousal.

All of that, is classical conditioning. So you see we’re not robots, or animals, well we are animals but we’re usually not robots. Conditioning is just a way to explain our behaviors, and help us further understand why and how we end up doing the things we do. Even not feeling awake until your morning coffee is conditioning, to an extent…

It’s never that simple is it doc?

Nope.

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Functional Fixedness

Ever been asked what would you do in the scenario where you’re locked in a car with a baseball bat? Usually the answer involves using the bat in some violent way to escape. It isn’t until after the scenario has been concluded that you realize you could have escaped by say, rolling down the window.

There are a couple of reasons as to why people have a higher tendency to resolve the scenario with the baseball bat. Things such as the environmental stressors, and the priming that occurs when you hear the words, trapped, car (small confined space), and baseball bat all play a significant role in causing you to respond how you do.

However, there is another, more common reason, that being functional fixedness, or FF for short. FF is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when you are under some form of stress, whether it’s something as simple as having trouble assembling a desk, to something as frightening as trying to escape before you drown.

When FF sets in it acts as a mental block that limits your ability to see the various, non-intentional uses for an item. An example of FF would be, you are assembling a desk and you need a hammer, there is a stapler nearby but under the feeling of frustration, you don’t realize that the stapler can be used as a hammer and continue searching.

A more common occurrence of it would be while under the pressure of an imminent deadline, you run into an obstacle. The ‘traditional’ solutions to the obstacle don’t work and you end up missing the deadline because you are unable to find a solution. Then later on, when you are no longer under that deadline, numerous creative and ‘obvious’ solutions present themselves, and you feel like an idiot for not thinking of it sooner.

I have news for you, you’re not an idiot, but a victim of functional fixedness. So how do you get past this, there are a number of ways to do so but I’ll just list two easy to apply options.

Option 1:

Relax yourself, distance yourself from whatever the stressors may be, and try shifting your perspective on the problem. Look at it from someone else’s point of  view. While you may not have the know how to fully understand a solution from a different perspective, you at least know it’s possible and can begin seeking out the person with the knowledge.

Option 2:

Distract yourself, do something else, let your mind wander. A wandering mind can be a lot more adept at thinking of creative solutions instead of one that is repeatedly hammering into an unyielding wall. Just letting yourself go and allowing your mind to drift off into space without any direct focus can work wonders when it comes to considering options you hadn’t thought of.

Occasionally neither of those will work or there may not be another option to overcoming the obstacle. If that’s the case, it is still a good idea to take a break, empty your mind and pay attention to your breathing. How you breathe has a direct effect on your state of mind, and your arousal levels, so it’s always a good idea to shift some attention to that part of your body.

By just letting everything go you can come up with solutions, that while they may not be the most creative will get the job done nevertheless.

Remember don’t be your own worst enemy, sometimes you just need to step aside.

-Mr. B

Merely Liking For The Sake Of Liking

Have you ever noticed how a song you may not have liked much the first few times you’ve heard it has steadily grown on you. Or even a friend, colleague, or piece of clothing. No matter what the item, or who the person, the more you are exposed to something the more you like it. This phenomenon is known as  the mere exposure effect, although there are exceptions, it generally holds true across the board.

How’s it work:

Mere exposure effect pulls most of its power from human’s natural attraction to consistency. Socially, we’re set up to prefer, and become more trusting of those who are always there when needed, and can be depended on to keep their word. The same is true with products, if we buy something, like a computer or a pair of running shoes, and it proves to be reliable time and time again, we will develop a loyalty and fondness to the company that manufactured it and become extremely more likely to buy from them in the future and recommend them to friends.

All of these examples pull from the same psychological basis, dependability is attractive, and dependability has many different meanings. In regards to mere exposure effect, it’s something as simple as being repeatedly exposed to something. While you may not know the name of the man or woman who rides in the same subway or train cart as you on your morning commute to work, over time you will develop a liking toward the person and notice their absence.

Where’s it practical:

You can apply mere exposure effect to anything, and anyone. If for instance you are trying to get someone to agree to buy something it’s a lot more effective to expose them to it gradually and repeatedly over time, rather than bashing them over the head with it.

Mere exposure effect can help you do that, by leaving an image or an article, or making a small mention of it, or checking it out at the mall you can set the person on the road to liking and wanting it, whatever it may be.

But watch out, mere exposure effect, can and is used on all of us all the time. Companies use it the most, they allocate huge amounts of their budget to advertising each year just for this. Companies pay to have their ad’s show up everywhere, from the internet and t.v commercials, to your smart phones, bill boards, and signs in the mall or at the movies.

Advertisers know that even if you don’t click on their web ad that plays before you get to your YouTube video the mere fact that you’ve been exposed to it has made you that more likely to buy it. The more you’re exposed to it, the more likely you are to return to buy future products from that same company, and recommend the product to friends, who will repeat the cycle until everyone’s using it.

Just look at Apple, their logo and products are everywhere. It’s reached the point where if you hear smart phone, or tablet, you immediately think of an Apple product, even if you don’t like them. This is partly thanks to mere exposure effect, getting their product and company image out there in a variety of avenues has given them a huge consumer base, and allowed them to become the giant they are today.

If you’re a small business owner, you’ve just been reminded of the importance of getting your ad’s into as many channels as possible. If you’re a teen you’ve just learned a new way to get your parents to buy you the latest gadget. And if you’re everyone else, you’ve just become a bit more consumer savvy, and aware of how even the briefest glimpse of something can have long-term consequences that influence your decisions for years to come.

Mere exposure effect is only one piece of the puzzle however. There are a number of other techniques, and psychological quirks that can be taken advantage of to influence someone’s decisions and actions. I’ll be discussing some of them in the posts to come, particularly the psychology behind influencing groups.

Remember just because you don’t like it today, doesn’t mean you won’t like it tomorrow.

Imagine, Create, Place

What if I told you that you can remember anything you want, and not forget? Without flash cards or repeating it to yourself over and over again. Crazy right? Impossible right? Too much work right? Wrong, while there may be a little crazy involved it’s not impossible, and the work involved can be as much or as little as you want.

All it takes is two and a half steps, and after the first few times those two and a half  steps can be combined or done away with all together.

The Steps: Imagine, Create, Place

Before we get in to explaining the steps we’re going to set a premise for the example that’ll be used throughout. For simplicity’s sake we’re going to use a grocery list that consist of: apple, milk, bread, chicken, cheese, and ketchup.

Step 1: Imagine

The memory palace is most effective when you use themed locations, so since we need to remember a grocery list we’re going to use the image of your kitchen in your mind’s eye.

Once you have your kitchen pictured clearly in your mind take a moment to look around it. While looking around it go ahead and chose a few unique spots that will act as focus points. For our example we only need six, so going off of a generic kitchen I’ll say, refrigerator, stove, kitchen sink, floor, counter top, and microwave. (If you want to make these spots stand out even more you can add a spotlight to each of them, that way there’s no mistaking it.)

Step 2.5: Create & Place

Now in order to remember the list we need to associate each item on it with one of our six focus points. So first up is:

Apples & Refrigerator: the first thing that comes to mind for me is a giant apple with arms and legs, and a face, eating the refrigerator.

The more vivid you make each scene, and the more senses you assign to it the longer the memory will stick.

Milk & Stove: now I see the stove drinking from four different cartons of milk, one for each burner, and all the milk is pouring out of the open oven and making a mess on the floor.

Bread & Kitchen Sink: This one is actually an association I’ve never made before. I see two things that I can chose from, either a gingerbread man washing dishes with bread instead of a sponge, or a bread man being devoured by the trash compactor in most sinks.

Whichever one I chose I’m sure to remember it.

Chicken & Center Floor: This one is pretty simple, there’s a chicken break dancing on the floor.

Cheese & Counter Top: A bunch of different types of cheese are playing black jack on the counter top, and the cards are slices of swiss cheese.

Ketchup and Microwave: The refrigerator eating apple has assaulted the microwave which is now bleeding ketchup all over the milk chugging stove.

And that’s it, now when your out shopping and you think back to your kitchen all you have to do is look around and the images will show reminding you of what you need.

How is this so effective:

Two reasons, the first is because your brain thinks best in images. We evolved in a world of images not words, those came later.

Reason two: In a world as repetitious and boring as ours giving your brain something new and interesting to pay attention to cause it to almost instantly dedicate it to long term memory. Our brain’s love new and stimulating things and there’s nothing as new and stimulating as our own imaginations which isn’t limited by anything.

Can this only be used for concrete things?

No, as a college student most of the things I have to remember are abstract and conceptual. They also tend to be multilayered, complex, and full of exceptions. I’ve used memory palace to remember all kinds of things for all kinds of courses. When it comes to conceptual and abstract things the key is to assign a single image, color, sound, sensation etc to an aspect of the concept.

Let’s say you want to remember that bipolar disorder is characterized by a manic phase and a depressive phase. Well the first thing I’d do is think of  the north pole. On top of the pole is a person running around doing flips, screaming and waving his hands while sticking out his tongue and being generally annoying. At the bottom of the pole is the same  man laying in the snow completely ignoring his crazy counterpart, there’s a rain cloud above him and he doesn’t even have the energy to open the umbrella laying next to him.

Now after viewing that image a few times it’ll become stored away in my mind as permanent information and I can either let the image fade away or revisit it from time to time when I want to recall something about the disorder.

Any Tips For Beginners:

Of course,.

Tip 1: Once you’ve established whatever you want to remember, distract yourself with something else and revisit it a few minutes later. After that first review wait a little bit longer maybe half an hour to an hour, or even less if it’s a lot of information, then revisit it. Three revisits spaced out at increasing increments is usually enough to get things down pact. I’ve found the best way to do this is to write down everything I can recall onto a blank sheet of paper and compare it to the original.

Tip 2: Keep each image unique, make them as interesting and surprising as possible and involve the senses. The more vivid you make the image the better and longer it will stick.

Tip 3: Identify unique focus points, don’t make each individual cabinet in your kitchen a focus point, all it will do is mix the images together. However, once you’ve gotten a bit more comfortable with the process you can associate multiple things that you want to remember with  the same focus point. Ex: I usually have the items on my grocery lists interact with each other, instead of associating milk and apples with two different focuses, i’ll imagine an apple doing something and once I pick it up in the store it bursts releasing an ocean of milk.

Tip 4: Theme your palaces, if you need to remember some facts about…cars, use your garage, or a mechanics shop that way your brain is primed to start pulling up information associated with the location.

Tip 5: Have fun, this isn’t meant to be a labor intensive process or a chore, it’s simple, quick, and highly effective. When you first start I recommended doing this with your eyes closed and without any distractions such as music, ringing phones etc, but as you get better at it you’ll be able to do this instantly and anywhere. I use it all the time when I’m on the go at work, or if I have an idea while doing something else.

Tip 6: Simplify complex ideas/concepts to a single image, or an action, or series of actions, that way you can use a certain image within a scene and when you review it later it will pull up all kinds of information since you’ve already simplified it.

Grabbing The Bull By The Horns

Today we’re going to look at different coping mechanisms that people use to deal with problems that arise in their day-to-day lives. In general there are two types of coping styles, problem-focused, and emotion-focused both of which come with their own pro’s in con’s.

Pro’s and Con’s of Problem-Focused Coping

When taking this route a pro would be eliminating or reducing the issue, a bonus, for those of you who are action oriented people is the feeling of doing something, and getting something accomplished. Whereas a con for is that you may come off as insensitive to others, or take a course of action that does more harm than good.

Pro’s and Con’s of Emotion-Focused Coping

For those out there who are more in tune to their emotions and the emotions of others this tends to be a preferred method of dealing with issues that arise. A pro is that you become more aware of how the issue is affecting everyone on an emotional level, as well as, strengthening social bonds and achieving some measure of personal growth. The con’s however are that if your attempts to resolve the issue fail you may be overwhelmed with feelings of helplessness, you also run the risk of alienating yourself from those who want to do something about the issue.

Problem-Focused CopingWhat’s It Like

The simplest example of problem-focused coping is confronting the issue as soon as it arises, also known as confrontation. An example would be if you live in an apartment complex and have neighbors that are extremely loud, all the time. You might go over to them and ask, or tell, them to keep their music and noise down, and your neighbors, may or may not comply.

A more advanced and effective version of confrontation is going with a planned solution. Instead of demanding that your neighbors keep it down, you can come up with a plan of action on how to reduce or eliminate the noise problem. This could involve contacting the land lord and informing them of a noise violation.

Both of these solutions have faults. In the confrontation solution you run the chance of escalating the situation to something more by aggravating your neighbor, by coming off as insensitive or rude.

In the planned solution not only do you run the chance of aggravating the neighbor, but you also run the chance of falling out of favor with the land lord who, depending on how you present the problem, may come to see you as a demanding tenant who will be difficult to have.

Emotion-Focused Coping: What’s it Like

Using the above example of the loud neighbor there are a few ways to approach it from an emotion-focused point of view. The first of which, and the least effective, being wishful thinking which is essentially hoping that the neighbor will eventually stop or get tired of their own music. Adopting this route will only cause you more discomfort as the issues persists, you may even confide in friends about the issue which would give you so measure of relief but ultimately does not resolve anything and may lead to your friends becoming frustrated with your complaints.

Another form of emotion-focused coping is reappraisal. Which is to change how you view the issue, this can be extremely useful in certain situations and is most commonly called looking at the silver lining. The issue with this is that some issues, such as an overly loud neighbor may not have enough silver lining to permit a successful reappraisal.

So What Can I Do?

The key is to be flexible, there are a number of different types of problem and emotion-focused coping styles that people use everyday without even being aware of it. Those with the most success are the ones who combine both problem and emotion-focused coping and are able to adapt it to any situation.

In our example, a way of combining the two would be to adopt the planned solution style of problem-focused, and combine it with the reappraisal style of emotion-focused coping. By changing how you view the situation you may glean some possible insight into why your neighbor is creating so much noise in the first place.

Chances are they are really bored and need something to do, or they don’t realize how loud they are. The planned problem-focused coping comes in handy by, under your new frame of reference, allowing you to think up possible solutions to the problem in which everyone is happy.

One such solution may be to go over and find out if your neighbor really is bored, and perhaps befriending them. If they aren’t, or they aren’t someone you would like to be friends with, you can still go over and in a non-aggressive way let them know how loud they are.

You can also always have them come over when their music is playing so that they can hear just how loud they are. There aren’t many people out there who aren’t willing to compromise, especially when approached in a way that doesn’t immediately put them on guard.

Coping is something that we use everyday, and almost all the time, although people don’t pay it much attention until something drastic like a death or a big break up occurs. The best way for anyone to go about coping is to first figure out what they primarily are, problem-focused, or emotion-focused.

Once you’ve become aware of you’re particular type of coping, you can tweak it to address its weaknesses and adopt it to various situations. and tweaking it to address its weaknesses, and becoming flexible enough to adopt other coping methods when necessary.

Remember not everything can be resolved with a punch, or with a kind word, sometimes it takes a bit of both.

So tell me, how do you cope with things?

 

How Not To Be An SSB

Have you ever noticed how easy and natural it is to associate your accomplishments in life to some internal factor about yourself, “yeah all that hard work I put in really paid off.” But when it comes to a failure the blame is suddenly switched to an external factor, “well if he/she hadn’t ______ this never would’ve happened.” While this may be true sometimes, it isn’t always, and those occasions when it isn’t is when your SSB truly shines.

Self-Serving Bias, What Is It?

It is, as the name suggest, the tendency to attribute success to our self (self-serving), and failure to anyone or anything else (bias), when in reality, that may not be the case.

Well that’s interesting, but what’s the point?

The point is, that this can be a cause for conflict between coworkers, couples, friends, and any other social combination you can imagine. If, for example, a group of friends get together to complete a project and fail, the members of that group will immediately shift the blame onto each other. They will also believe, that had they done the project alone, or with a different group, they would have succeeded.

SSB makes us blind to what the facts really are, it’s much more easier and appealing to believe that failure is due to someone or something else’s mistakes/presence rather than our own. The upside to this is that we maintain whatever self-esteem we have. The downside is that we avoid all opportunities to learn from our mistakes, grow, and develop stronger and healthier types of self-esteem.

So if it’s such an automatic process what can I do about it?

Plenty actually, while SSB is for the most part ingrained into the very way we interpret our surroundings and construct our version of reality it is hardly something that can’t be changed. The key is to remember that everyone, even you, can, and does make mistakes. Keeping this in mind will go a long way the next time failure or even success rears its head. Don’t immediately throw the blame onto everyone else, or attribute all of the success to yourself. Take a second to really look at the situation and decide if you really did play a part in the failure or success and if so how much.

After all no one wants to come off as an SSB (Stupid Son of a ****)right?

How’s Your GAS?

Everyone knows that everyone’s GAS is a little different, and today we’re going to talk about how you can become more aware of your own GAS and use it in a way to make your day a little bit easier. GAS is primarily a stress response, it can be, and is, triggered by any degree of stress and any type of stress whether it be good or bad.

But before we get too caught up in GAS, it’s worth taking a moment to explain what GAS really is…G.A.S, stands for General Adaptation Syndrome, what’d you think it stood for? The thing happens when you’re digesting food? General Adaptation Syndrome, more commonly referred to as GAS is not a syndrome, it simply has the word syndrome in its name.

It was first discovered by psychologist Hans Seyle, and that’s all we’re going to say about that. GAS is the combination of physical and emotional responses your body goes through when introduce to stress of any level. GAS is composed of three levels, or phases, level 1 or the reaction stage, level 2 or the resistance stage, and level 3 or the exhaustion stage.

Level 1 GAS the Unexpected Surprise: Reaction

Most stressors (stressful event) that we experience throughout the day come and go so fast that they don’t make it past this stage. An example would be getting surprised by someone sneaking up on you, you react with a shout, your heart rate spikes, and your senses may jump into a temporary state of hyper-arousal. However, the shock of being snuck up on is usually gone in less than a minute.

Just like the reaction stage, which is, as the name suggests, the stage in which your body initially responds to the stressor.

Level 2 GAS the Chronic Offender: Resistance

If the stressor persists past the reaction stage, your body begins to launch its long-term defenses, which essentially involve pulling up reserves of energy to maintain whatever physical and mental state is needed to combat the stressor.

An example that just about everyone can relate to is the morning traffic-filled commute to work. During these commutes you are constantly exposed to two main stressors, the first of which being time, the clock is always against you when you’re stuck in traffic which makes for a very common and very persistent stressor. The second constant stressor is the traffic itself, having to constantly stop and go, and sometimes stop at the last second creates stress on its own as your hopes are repeatedly raised and crushed.

The body’s reactions to this is to enter a state of hyper-awareness, of not only your surroundings but of the impending feeling of doom of being late to work yet again. The cost of maintaining such a high level of arousal is seen in the frustration and anger of being stuck in traffic. Combined with the other stressors this can, and does lead to impaired judgement, unnecessary risk, and in some cases irrational behavior.

Level 3 GAS the Executioner: Exhaustion

The name says it all, your body has used up all of its emergency resources and then some and the stressors still haven’t gone away. Your defenses have fallen away a long time ago and you’re wide open for any infections, colds, flues, diseases, or any other bad guy out there.

Hopefully no one is reaching level 3 on a day-to-day, or even year to year basis. An example of this, and a phenomenon that is on the rise is the development of PTSD. The common thought is that PTSD is triggered by one overwhelming traumatic event, the truth is, it can be triggered by this but it is also triggered by prolonged exposure to chronic stressors, and you don’t have to be in the military to develop it.

Another way to determine if you’ve reached level 3 or not is if your dead. Sadly enough, this stage is also indicated by death, such as starving, or freezing to death.

So what’s the point? GAS is nice but what’s it have to do with me?

Good question, the point is now that you’re aware of the levels of GAS and how it relates to you, you can do something to combat it. The simplest thing to do when confronted with a chronic stressor is to, if possible, set it aside. Often enough just setting aside whatever is stressing you out at work, clearing your head and coming back to it, is enough to eliminate or reduce the stress part of the task.

But what if I can’t put it aside, what if I need to address it here and now?

Another good question and here’s the answer. If you’re confronted with a chronic stressor that you can’t set aside, like your boss demanding to know why such and such failed, or the progress of project x, then the simplest and most immediate solution is to take a mental step back.

No matter how angry or impatient your boss is taking those few seconds to distance yourself mentally will do you both some good. Look at it this way, would you and your boss prefer it if you spit out the first, and probably inaccurate, thing that came to mind, and then had to apologize as you scramble to find the right answer. Or would it be better to take a deep breath, take a step back mentally, get your thoughts in order and provide your boss with the correct answer.

IMHO the answer is obvious.

A note about taking that mental step back, I don’t mean shift your thoughts to something else entirely. What I mean is to take the emotion out of it, get rid of the sense of urgency (deep breaths help here), get rid of as much of the dislike you have toward your boss as possible, get rid of the annoyance at being interrupted, set it aside for later and focus on the facts, the rest will be ready and waiting for you as soon as you’re done.

And if your boss is one of those extremely impatient ones that don’t believe in not being ready 10 minutes ago just politely ask for a second to gather your thoughts. Phrasing it as a question “may I have a second to gather my thoughts,” instead of a statement “give me a second to gather my thoughts,” goes a long way. The question style immediately makes your boss feel empowered, and makes him/her more likely to calm down, and shows them that you’re responsible/mature enough to know your limits and know when you need a second.

In the end, don’t let your GAS get the better of you, cause no one likes to be around someone whose gassy.

Feel free to post what techniques you use to manage your own GAS.