Project Practitioners > Why "peeved" is a favorite stress-management word

Why "peeved" is a favorite stress-management word

By Cinda Voegtli

When I get upset about something that has happened, a personal life-saver is the word "peeved."   Here's a quick story of "peeved" in action.

One day I called the Careers office at my daughter's university.  I was calling to ask for clarification about upcoming career fair events. I wanted to gently encourage my daughter to attend and she was feeling shy about it; I figured I'd better understand the events better before I mentioned anything. and frankly, the website info on the different choices was not great.  I was NOT helicoptering, NOT calling to ask for any favors for my daughter.  I called anonymously, just curious and wanting to know something. Hey, their web page said they want to be partners with parents!

Well - I felt subtly dissed and very condescended to by the person who answered the phone.   Maybe this person just had an overly formal communication style that hit me badly. But it seemed very clear that she had no desire to converse. "It's on the website, tell your daughter to do X."  I felt lectured to and dismissed, not sincerely helped. It REALLY BUGGED ME. I knew I needed to just let it go, but I was upset.  And sometimes when I get upset about something involving another person, I continue the fight in my head.  How I should have been treated. What else I could have said.  What they should have said instead. Whether I should call back... It was really eating at me and distracting me from getting back to work. 

(In my defense --  I've had to do way too much stakeholder analysis and communication planning in my own job, for her apparent disinterest to go down well with me!  My reaction was along the lines of "How dare you even come close to making me feel bad for calling about this, when we are footing the very considerable $$$$$$ bill for all this!  We are your major stakeholders!!"  :-) )

Then, one of my go-to "personal effectiveness" books popped into my mind: Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins.  One chapter talks about what words we use when we talk to ourselves, and how much our word choices matter to our reaction to and ability to handle stressful situations

From reading that chapter years ago, I had added the word "peeved" to my internal vocabulary. So I mentally shifted from "I am SO ANGRY with this Career Office person..." to "I'm kind of peeved at how this person just spoke to me."  It may sound ridiculous, but I felt the pressure lesson.  Peeved is just a lighter, even silly-sounding word. It takes the edge off for me.  I do believe from experience that what words we use internally to describe our reaction to something really CAN affect -- either exaggerate, or help moderate  --  the intensity of the emotions involved.

So:

Am I ANGRY at the cross-functional team member who still won't contribute to the planning...  or can I be a bit peeved about it...  and then deal with the issue with less angst (and a lesser sense of conflict too)?

Is that big new risk we uncovered a HUGE PROBLEM, or a pesky new item to look into? (Pesky is another great word.)

Is that person being a PAIN or ridiculously DISRUPTIVE, or do they just have a different communication style and/or a professional difference of opinion?

Am I STRESSED OUT and/or WORRIED by the big seemingly-insurmountable scope disagreements we're having, or am I simply bemused by the differences of opinion and even intrigued to see how we'll work it out?

I find that when I remember to stop and do it, the conscious word selection and internal mental shift really helps.   So my humble offering to you this week is simply this tip for stress-reducing internal conversation when you hit something tough that produces a strong internal negative reaction.   Try watching your internal word choices as you describe the situation to yourself.   Try out pesky or peeved or bemused or other softer-edged, less intense words that come to mind.  You might just feel your blood pressure drop quickly in tough situations, and you might even cause yourself to smile a little too.



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