Neuroscience in past five years has revealed many startling facts about stress, such as that even light exercise alleviates it and that you can detoxify stressful memories. In these cases, neuroscience has merely explained how the chemicals in your brain make the techniques work. The techniques themselves are decades old.
My mother, who was an award-winning salesperson for Bristol-Myers, taught me what she called "the nine magic words" for working with people, especially in stressful situations. I strongly suspect that neuroscience will eventually catch up with my mother's words of wisdom, but I see no reason to wait until then to share them with you.
As she explained it to me, the nine magic words come in three groups of three:
1. "I respect you."
When you allow disrespect to guide your thoughts, you become the other person's secret enemy. Hate and anger bubble beneath the surface. Both of you know it will eventually explode, so disrespect is like sitting on a powder keg.
Saying "I respect you"--and meaning it--lays the foundation for a strong business relationship. Respect creates respect; the relationship grows. Conflicts that otherwise would create massive stress are transformed into problems you solve together.
2. "I understand you."
As anyone who's had the experience can vouch, it's incredibly stressful to work someplace where misunderstanding is the rule rather than the exception. Vast effort is wasted on pointless tasks. Chaos and confusion reign.
To work their magic, these three words must be said only after you've taken the effort to truly understand. That means putting aside your preconceptions and really listening to what other people say. Doing so creates clarity, which is the opposite of stress.
3. "I forgive you."
In almost every situation, people try to do the best they can with the resources they've got. However, mistakes are inevitable, and when you carry rancor and resentment about them after they've happened, you're maintaining and multiplying the stress.
Forgiveness doesn't mean tolerating bad behavior. Quite the contrary. It's easier and more effective to change the behavior of others when your intent is to correct rather than punish. So let it go and move forward.
I'm reasonably certain that these "magic words" do indeed change your brain chemicals to alleviate stress. Rather than speculate on that, I'll add this instead: My mother had three additional magic words that she said were more powerful than all the others combined.
I'll let you guess what those three words were.