We all have good days and bad days. When I ask someone what a bad day looks like, the answer is usually different. Some say they become “Chaotic”, others say “Worried”, “Nitpicking”, “Bossy”, or “Controlling”.
The type of bad day you have depends on your personality. Let me explain.
We all have strengths, but when our strengths are overextended, they become a weakness, the good day becomes a bad day. That’s why it is said, “Too much of a good thing won’t be good for long.”
For example, when you become too disciplined and precise, you can become controlling and nitpicking. Too much analysis leads to paralysis. Too many ideas lead to chaos.
Have a look at the diagrams of the four temperaments of the personality below. On the left is the good day, on the right the bad day. Can you recognize yours?
In terms of interpersonal communication, can you imagine what will happen when two people who are in opposing quadrants on a Bad Day? For example, one person is controlling and nitpicking, the other chaotic and insecure?
Now, what causes the Bad Day to emerge? It always is some form of STRESS. Stress is not necessarily a bad thing, but when fear and anxiety take over, our bodies react in several ways. Blood is diverted from the brain and the digestive tract to the muscles and we go into “fight, flight or freeze” mode.
This is almost never effective. It was effective for our ancestor the caveman, when under attack by a saber-toothed tiger. But for us, in our society, it makes us ineffective at home and at work. I worked with a cyclist once who reported that in really important races when he was under a lot of stress, he would have 10-20% less power in his legs than in a regular training ride.
In my book, The Power of Polarities, I offer a remedy for this kind of situation. It is as follows: when you find yourself in the bad day of one of the quadrants above, you need to move to its opposite quadrant on a good day. This brings the balance back in your personality.
Go ahead, try it, look at the diagrams above and see if you can recognize your own pattern.
This mechanism became very clear to me in my work with sports teams. Every big game puts a team under stress, especially when fear and anxiety about losing the game get the upper hand.
Ever wonder why a team that is ahead in the 3rd quarter of the game, loses the game in the 4th quarter? What I see happen more often than not, is that stress, fear of losing creeps in, and the team that was ahead goes into its Bad Day. The team that was behind, was behind anyway, and free of stress, now glides to victory.
Stress exposes the fundamental weaknesses of the individual and the team. That is why I say, “Stress is a change agent for high performance.” Doing stress simulations is part of the process of working with sports teams.
If the players of a team under stress become chaotic, flighty and insecure, the remedy lies in the opposite quadrant on a good day: discipline, focus, efficiency, the practical execution of tasks.
And if the players become risk-averse, calculating and nitpicking? The remedy lies in being more encouraging to each other, pursuing the ideals of the team together again, stop focusing on the results (and then miraculously good results follow).
Now, this is generally speaking of course. Every situation is unique and there are no easy answers. It takes some hard work and awareness to understand a specific situation but applying this mechanism always leads to improvement.
Want to learn more about your strengths and your behavior under stress? Want to find an antidote?