When People Sigh…

When People Sigh…


Have you ever sighed at work?  Have you ever walked into someone’s office and sighed?

I have experienced both. 

When we sigh, it is usually a  sign of being overwhelmed, overcapacity, frustrated, and perhaps annoyed.

Two weeks ago, I sat across from a staff person when things were not going well for anyone at work.  And I remember saying, this is something that we will get through…and while this is a lot.  If it were not this, it would be something else. 

So here we are today.  Past storm over.  I casually ask the same person “How’s it going?” and she let out a big sigh.  I chuckled and listened to her list.  After the list, I responded informed her that all of these tasks were part of her leadership role.  I then dug deeper and said “I want to remind you that the big storm is past and behind us.  And now you have found another thing”. 

In the conversation, I also stated that when home life is overwhelming and you are doing everything (cleaning, new baby, childcare navigation, relationship, family coordination), work is not overwhelming; LIFE is overwhelming.  But when we compare the two, work will be the culprit; if we are not careful to compartmentalize and isolate the direct relationship between scenario(antecedent) and the actual sighing behavior.

I revealed that I am careful about my sighs…I ask myself a few questions when I sigh…

  • Did I plan or execute poorly?
  • Did I not fully articulate my needs?
  • Did not delegate well?

When I am able to segment and think about why I feel a certain way, I am better able to control my emotions and respect the work environment or home environment I am in. My home doesn’t deserve my sighs as much as my workplace does. Sighs are environment invaders and disrupt the emotional spaces of others. Sighs (when they occur) need to be checked. If a hug is warranted, still provide the kind redirection about what can be verbalized instead of a sigh infiltration.

Here’s the truth about sighing:

  1. Sighs are a complaint that something is not going okay
  2. Sighs are contagious
  3. Leaders lead.  This leadership can inspire a trail of complaints, praises, or sighs
  4. The work environment invaded by sighs can create a negative space that moves from one person to the next.
  5. Leaders have to treat the work environment like a baby…providing it with the support and nurturing it needs to grow.  Sighing is a contaminant.
  6. Sighing deserves a listen and a redirection.
  7. It’s a sign, you need some friend time; a day off.
  8. A subconscious way of saying something needs to change. And life should be easier (laundry, etc.)

Teaching self-care is important.  Not with a program or gift cards.  But with introspection.  Moving staff to understand themselves by asking questions like “What do I need?  Why am I sighing?  What can I change about my life and schedule?  What can I delegate?  Do I need to talk to someone?”

As this staff person sat across from me, I did not rush to rescue nor fix her situation.  I listened and realigned her towards self-reflection and providing the boundaries of workplace requirements.  Small or large organizations, organisms must be conscientious about their influence and impact.  Sighs are small and they have legs…they turn into verbal discontent (warranted or not) and can often lead to “fix this for me” vs empowering people to become active in their own maladaptive behavior reduction.

It’s important to recognize that life happens in seasons. There are times in work where it WILL be overwhelming and a lot will need to be done. Sigh on!

Be careful about and conscious of the energy that emits. Be able to own what you put in the air of the work environment. If you are in a leadership position, use these sighs sparingly.

Organizations deserve peace, authenticity, and compatibility of expected behavior.  It takes bravery for clinical leaders to stand in this arena of amygdala control-regulation and redirect adult learners (staff) to employ emotional regulation strategies and support the work environment and what it needs to thrive.

Let’s Thrive!

~Landria Seals Green,MA., CCC-SLP, BCBA

Photo by Doğukan Şahin on UnsplashPublishAre you ready to publish?

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