The 25 Cognitive Biases: Doubt Avoidance Tendency

How do you respond to stress? If someone wants to persuade you of something when you’re stressed, what tack should they take?

In Words That Change Minds, Shelle Rose Charvet discusses two basic stress personalities. She explains how you can identify someone’s stress personality and speak to them in an influential way in the midst of a stressful situation.

Keep reading to learn about the two basic stress personalities and how to get through to people and even influence them during times of stress.

Recognizing Stress Personalities

Think about how different people react to high-pressure situations. Are they level-headed or neurotic? Do they address intense events with cool, dispassionate logic, or do they frequently become emotionally overwhelmed? (Charvet calls this the “Stress Response” category.)

Charvet clarifies that, unlike most of the other mental habits, stress personalities aren’t revealed through the words people say. You can gauge whether someone is level-headed or neurotic by paying attention to how outwardly emotional they are while speaking, especially when discussing a challenging situation. Level-headed people typically stay low-key and detached in conversation, while neurotic people visibly display emotions with their whole bodies—for instance, slumping their shoulders and collapsing into a chair when describing an exhausting day at work.

(Shortform note: Once you’ve concluded how level-headed or neurotic someone is, you can use this knowledge of their typical emotional affect to gain greater insights into what they’re thinking and feeling. In What Every Body Is Saying, Joe Navarro asserts that after getting an idea of someone’s baseline body language, you can interpret deviations from this baseline as reactions to the current situation. For example, if a neurotic person flashes a subtle smile, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything, since it’s subdued compared to their expressive baseline. However, if a level-headed, typically reserved person smiles, it may indicate that they’re very excited about something, as this is an extreme expression compared to their low-key baseline.)

To influence level-headed people, take care to explain your point of view with airtight logic. To influence neurotic people, speak in emotional language that gets them excited to act.

(Shortform note: Arguably, if your message is emotionally gripping enough, you can get even the most level-headed people to throw logic out the window and act—especially if you’re stirring primal emotions like fear. Author and investor Peter Bevelin explains that the emotional parts of our brains are built to override the logical parts in response to danger. This is because our ancestors who reacted to danger emotionally survived, while those who thought more slowly and methodically were unable to react to danger quickly enough.)

How to Recognize Stress Personalities & Speak Their Language

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, science, and philosophy. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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