Dealing with stressWhat is it with people lately?

Browbeating, bashing, and bullyragging. Flames, stains, and blames. Put downs, let downs and showdowns. On forums, blogs, and social networking sites.

Sure, I understand people are fed up with scam artists and snake oil salesmen. And sure, I also believe we need firebrands and rebels. Each one helps to keep the other side in line.

I love good debates. They're not only intellectually stimulating, but also they help instigate change, or give others the impetus on how to deal with it. I always love a good argument, when that argument is based on fact and substance.

But lately, some of them are really getting out of hand.

I'm seeing people being snarky at best, and being outright abusive with name-calling at worst. (I can just see hungry lawyers rubbing their hands together, as they get ready to pounce on the growing potential for new slander, libel and character defamation suits.)

It's sad that a few bad apples are rotting the basket. But what's worse than coping with those annoying whiners is dealing with the undue — let alone undeserving — stress they cause in their wake.

Rather than remaining logical, factual and objective, they tend to paint entire industries with the same, broad, brown-colored brushstrokes, and expect the other side to sit idly by, or, better yet, to react and defend themselves (feeding their own egocentric need for confrontation, thinking that by doing so, they appear more than mere vigilantes but as heroes).

I agree that people are leery and getting fed up. And that's understandable. But using the same tactics they condemn to lambaste (or even worse, intimidate) others is getting bloody ridiculous.

I believe they often do so to justify their own inadequacies and failures.

These people are vampires. They suck your energy, your time, your money, and the most important of all, especially if you're a copywriter like me, your creativity.

Rather than learning a thing or two, they take great pride in voicing their opinions — not in the hope that their voices are heard and lead to change, but that they are glorified for taking a stance, or at least suck people into their ego-feeding frenzy, not only to look good but also to feel better about themselves.

And that's just as deceptive.

They're not only robbing the people they manage to get involved in their mudslinging fest. They are also robbing themselves. And the worst part is, they know it. But they don't care.

Passion is powerful. It can create multi-million dollar businesses. It can move nations. It can change the world. Especially when that passion was ignited by a catalytic event. (And being fed up can be a catalyst in itself.)

But misdirected passion can also cause stress. It can cause undue harm. It can even cause wars. And it can, of course, cause death.

That's why I'm a firm believer that passion is powerful. But guided by principle, meaning when you can focus and steer that passion in the proper direction, your passion can become a force of good that benefits the lives of so many people.

Including your own.

Archimedes said, “Give me a lever big enough and I can move the world.” But that alone is not enough. Hitler had his lever — whether it was his charisma or his army — but look what his passion accomplished.

Don't be a passionate person. Be a person of “principled passion.”

As they say in the sales industry, people who put the competition down and say negative things about them do so because they have nothing good to say about their own products.

(And people can see this from miles away.)

It only makes you look bad — not the other party you intend to harm.

I think it's the same in all things. When you have nothing positive or nothing of substance to bring to the table, and all you do is put others down — or worse yet, using them as excuses for not doing well — then it only makes you look bad, not the object of your ire.

As a writer, passion has been a critical element. I've used it as a powerful tool to write some of the most successful pieces of copy I've ever written. But stress can also be a killer — whether it's a killer of ambition, a killer of creativity, or, in some cases, a killer, period.

Misdirected passion can become quite stressful on yourself. But dealing with bullies and provocateurs can be equally damaging. The energy and labor-intense work it takes to deal with these people — and the destruction they leave in their wake — can be incredibly exhausting.

And on a writer, it can kill a career.

Matthew Stibbe's Bad Language Blog is a blog on writing, which I follow religiously. Recently, he posted ways to bust stress. I love them. But throughout my own career, I have a few stressbusters of my own. Let me share with you some of mine:

1) Leave sleeping dogs lie.

Let pissing matches put out their own flames by themselves. Often, when wars go on around you, whether it's in a forum or on a blog, or anywhere else, trying to put your foot in can give either party an opportunity to grab it and drag you in.

Trying not to join in a destructive argument is tough enough, but it surely is easier than trying to win one. Because its sole purpose is to destroy! It only serves to feed the confrontational goal of the people involved.

Here's how to win in an argument. Don't get sucked in one. I believe that the arguments you win are most often the ones you don't join. Because your non-response, and your ability to self-control, will say spades about you, your position and, above all, your integrity.

Eventually, they will die, anyway — and you, on the other hand, as well as your integrity let alone your reputation, will stay alive.

2) Take a breather.

Or two. Or three. Sleep on it. Count to 1,000. Count to 1,000 backwards. Really, this works. We often react in situations, yet fail to act. Action is the best stress-buster there is. But reaction is the greatest stress-booster there is, too.

People want to push your hot buttons, fire up your hormones and get you all riled up. And when you react, you're basically letting them know that their ploy worked. Why not take a few steps back, let it simmer for a bit, and then act?

In copywriting (and even in selling), they say that people buy on emotion first, and justify their decision with logic. This is, unfortunately, true in all things, not just in commerce. People buy in the things they hear or read, and feel a need to respond.

Instead, let your emotions calm down. When in comes to arguments or dealing with bullies, buy first on logic, then back it up with emotion.

3) Know the difference.

Firebrands can sometimes be obnoxious people. But some people are obnoxious not specifically in a premeditated, malicious way, with the willful and egregious intent in trying to create pain and havoc. In my experience, most of them do the same thing — they are simply reacting, too.

Maybe they are the victims of a similar (or worse) situation in the past, and they've become “once bitten, twice shy.” Maybe they perceive the situation from a completely (and perhaps erroneously) different vantage point that you are not aware of or can never understand.

Maybe there's a series of events, which may have festered over time, and then suddenly even the smallest thing can cause them to snap — or make snap judgments. Or simply, they may be having a bad day. Who knows? You don't, and that's the point.

4) Stay away from excuse chasers.

You know the ones: whining socialites, gossip-mongers and buck-passers. Some things are said in forums and blogs that are pure junk. They are meant to stir up controversy. They are used as linkbait. But worst of all, they are used as excuses.

Brian Tracy says to beware of “psychosclerosis,” the “hardening of the attitudes.” Well, “forumitis,” or inflammation of the forums, is a common and nasty disease on the Internet, too.

You may make money with forums, but you don't make money in one (or worse still, wasting time fighting in one). Forums can unsuspectingly steal precious time and energy from you.

While some forums are helpful, they also attract a lot of junk — whiners, complainers, guru bashers, and people who either seek trouble or stir up trouble in them as a way to create excuses.

Excuses for doing poorly. Excuses for shifting blame away from themselves. Excuses for not taking responsibility for their own lives.

Avoid these people like the plague.

5) Loosen up.

Activity is one of the best de-stressors. Writing is a great way to let off steam, and I often write many posts, forum replies and articles, that never get published. Just writing them is a release in itself.

But I also mean any kind of physical activity. I'm a drummer in a band, and my music is a great way to “bang those drums” and take out my frustrations on some inanimate objects.

Go for a walk or a jog. Have a nice long bath. Have sex. Exercise. Watch a movie — or even better, go out to a movie theater, and have a dinner and a movie. And the best? Talk to someone who's willing to listen. Just listen.

When you have someone who you can “download” on, without judging you, criticizing you or feel a need to jump in all the time, hold on to that person with dear life. I have found that someone. And I took my own advice: so I married her. 🙂

6) Do what you love.

I really enjoy my writing work and I have much less stress than in my previous career. The adage goes, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” And this is certainly true for me.

Owning and growing my business took away a lot of the stress in my life, which allowed me to make a lot more money — and have a lot more fun doing it, too. When I quit my job, I no longer had to deal with harassing coworkers, idiotic bosses, or abusive clients.

Sure, you're still going to deal with dumbasses in business just as you would in a job. The difference is, you don't have to put up with them to make money. You can choose who you want to work with. As “contrarian self-help” expert Larry Winget said, “When it quits being fun, then you ought to quit.”

In the end, all of this reminds me of a gem by Eleanor Roosevelt, who once said:

Great minds discuss ideas;
Average minds discuss events;
Small minds discuss people.

In fact, Larry Winget, who by the way is one of my favorite motivational speakers (he prefers to call himself the world's only “irritational speaker”), says it best, which sums it all up beautifully. 🙂