When remaining stoic is counterproductive

If you’re feeling sick or stressed you’re going to make mistakes and trying to be stoic is more often counterproductive than helpful.

Just remember the fable of the Spartan boy and the fox. The boy came upon a fox, captured the animal, and stuck it under his tunic. He knew that he wasn’t permitted to have an animal and might be punished for it, so when the fox, hidden under his clothing, began to gnaw at his flesh, he remained stoic and did not utter a single cry. He was a model Spartan, suppressing the pain he felt—right up until the moment that the fox bit into a vital organ and killed him. Not exactly a model for modern people to emulate, however.

If you’re feeling less than 100 percent —all right, maybe less than 90 percent, since it’s rare for any of us to be 100 percent all the time— slow down the negotiations. You don’t have to vacate the meeting, cancel the meeting, call in a substitute negotiator, or anything like that. Just slow it down. Discuss something that’s not critical to the negotiation; get to know each other; talk about your company’s history—just don’t do anything critical while you’re not at your best.

If you feel you’re getting overwhelmed, take the break you need (the vacation, the sick days, the sabbatical) before you’re called upon to undertake some difficult task. Then you’ll come back to it, rested and ready. The trouble is, vacation days must often be scheduled months in advance; sick days are limited; and sabbaticals don’t even exist in many occupations. If you’re in a position where you’re not able to schedule time off when you need it most, then you’ll have to look for ways to take care of yourself on weekends and before or after work.

Summing-up: When you’re tired or under the weather, avoid making mistakes by being smart and just taking it easy.

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