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Everyone’s behaviour changes to some degree when under pressure. Realising how your behaviour changes and identifying your own negative reactions can be the key to managing stress and maintaining a happy, harmonious working life.

Learning to spot negative behavioural reactions to stress in your colleagues can make a real difference to your day-to-day practice. Your behaviour covers communication skills, problem solving and habits, which say something about you.

Your behaviour shapes your friendships, work relationships and patient experience too.


  • Think about your own feelings and their impact on your behaviour
  • Think about what impact are you having on your colleagues
  • How many of your reactions are bad habits that can be broken?
  • Rehearse difficult conversations with a trusted friend
  • The only person’s behaviour you can change is your own

The world of psychology is full of models detailing personality types and reactions under pressure, mostly from the world of business. It often comes as a surprise that others do not think or feel as we do. You might like to find out more about your own personality type and your reaction to stress by using one of the links.

 Link to Worldpersonality Myers Briggs Test

Transactional analysis or the ‘Parent-adult-child model’ is amongst the most popular ways of looking at human behaviours. This based on the idea that many of our behaviours within relationships both at home and work are developed as very small children in our family environment. Ideally, especially at work, you would hope to be relating to others with an adult emotional approach – one in which strong feelings are not a major feature. Often, especially when we are under pressure, we revert to childlike or parenting type of behavior depending on our childhood experiences and our roles.

If you are feeling angry, upset or in any way experiencing strong emotions, you are at high risk of moving out of your professional adult mode. If you are feeling emotional or angry, stop and think before you speak.

People skills

Making a conscious effort to be polite and thoughtful under pressure can make a huge difference. Viewing other people’s “difficult” or “obstructive” behaviour as simply a negative stress reaction can completely transform the way you look at a situation. You are the only person whose behaviour you can change – and your behavior can change the way others relate to you. Good communication is the key in patient safety and healthcare quality. Where possible, lose the emotion – it is not helpful. 

Active listening

It’s hard to actually listen to other people when your head is full of things to do and your own opinions and thoughts. Are you often thinking up what you want to say whilst the other person is talking and wishing they’d stop so you can say what you want to – or do you even butt in before they have stopped for fear of not having your say. How do you feel when you know someone is not listening to you? Try a few deep breaths to clear your head and really practice listening to the other person. Apparently doctors listen, on average, to what a patient has to say for 19 seconds!

Get organized

Being organized can really help you manage workload and stress. You can learn to be organized, though this is easier for some than others.

  • Look at your colleagues, who appears organised? What do they do differently to you? Ask them how they do it.
  • Activities that stimulate your creative left brain and practical right brain have been proven to improve organisation – might be worth doing some brain training
  • Manage your time – set aside time to plan your day – five minutes is enough. Plan in advance, prioritise and pace yourself, be decisive and use time limits. Stop form time to time to re-plan as needed.
  • It’s OK to say no, or not now, or later (try to say when) – ask for help before you blow a gasket!


Remember – If you behave well with others they will behave well with you. 


The only person’s behaviour you can change is your own.


Behaviour Resources



 Coursepad – real behavioural change



Businessballs – Transactional analysis

UKATA – Transactional analysis


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