Anxiety can seriously affect the functioning of a group of people whether it is a family, a non-profit company, or a church, synagogue or another religious or spiritual group.
Most of us know the basic signs of anxiety in individuals. There are also clear signs of anxiety in systems. You can learn or review those here, and then remember them with a simple mnemonic “If Shows Form”.
It’s almost as simple as identifying anxiety in individuals. In general, when we experience several of the following physical, behavioral and emotional signs or see them in others, anxiety is present: sweating palms, heart-palpitations, fear, trouble concentrating, upset stomach, muscle tension, headaches, fatigue, restlessness, inability to speak or blurting out personal or inappropriate information, difficulty falling or staying asleep.
Anxiety in a leader, a group of leaders or even a whole group or congregation also has very specific characteristics. If you become familiar with these signs, you will easily be able to identify when anxiety has become an issue for you as a leader or for the organization you belong to or lead.
- Indirect Talk: Telling one or more people how terrible another person is, but not being willing to face that person and talk directly to him or her.
- Feeling intense emotion when someone in a group or organization acts a certain way. These feelings could include: anger, embarrassment, frustration, disappointment, etc.
- Secrets: Helping to hold secrets or being aware that others are keeping secrets.
- Holding in: Not sharing thoughts and feelings openly when something bothers you. This can also be characterized as conflict avoidance.
- Oversimplification: Focusing on only one aspect of a problem. An anxious person or group often believes one specific action will fix the problem. This leads to the Quick Fix Mentality.
- Waffling or indecisiveness: Having a hard time making decisions, or agreeing with one person one day and a person with an opposing view the next day depending on the circumstances. Waffling is often an extension of conflict avoidance, not wanting to take a clear stand in case it is unpopular.
- Scapegoating: Choosing one person to blame for all the problems of an organization. Usually the scapegoat is a leader, but it could also be a member who others see as threatening in some way.
- Forming Factions: Talking only to people who hold the same opinion and avoiding or demonizing people with opposing views.
- One Way Only: A rigid focus on only one option and an unwillingness or inability to listen to and consider other perspectives.
- Reactivity: Acting or speaking quickly or impulsively especially when it is based on intense emotion.
- Minimizing: Downplaying conflict and reactivity in a group or organization, or even outright ignoring it. Phrases like: “That’s just his/her way.” “We’ve always done things that way.”
If you see these patterns of acting and interacting in a group you are a part of, you are dealing with anxiety in the system. To remember what to look for use this simple mnemonic:
If Shows Form
Next week, the Congogram Newsletter will focus on how to respond after you identify anxiety in a group, congregation or non-profit you belong to.