Getting to Yes, And

Rob Cross & Karen Dillon: The Microstress Effect


Rob Cross & Karen Dillon

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Kelly talks to Babson College professor Rob Cross and returning guest Karen Dillon of the Harvard Business Review to discuss their new book: “The Microstress Effect: How Little Things Pile Up and Create Big Problems – and What to Do About It.”

How did you land on writing this book about microstresses?

“We asked ourselves, what are these small moments that are trapping people? And that persisted through hundreds of interviews. After that, what we were seeing was that it was the accumulation of small negative moments that were really catastrophic to people in ways that they couldn't see. So, we started with the negatives, and we ended looking at the positives, too, on the role of the positive side of connections. But we really shifted to understanding and managing the negative interactions and small moments that are so critical. That is such an improv thing in terms of having the conversation, and then sort of listening for what's not there.”

But that term, microstress, didn’t exist when you started working on this book.

"First, we didn't have language to describe these kinds of small moments, and we realized that pretty early on that we didn't have the language to talk about it. People don't recognize it because they don't even know how to talk about it. So, it just became obvious that these were such tiny moments of stress - but that packed a punch - that ‘microstress’ just became the right term to describe how brief and how tiny they are individually.”

And in your interviews, you discovered that the people who managed their microstresses often did so in community with others outside of work.

“The stories that ended poorly, you know, way deep into people's lives with just kind of miserable outcomes. They may have been rich, but miserable outcomes on everything else were when it became purely about the profession and direct family. And so, we really came to see that having this dimensionality in life was important. And it was not the big things that was distinguishing these people. They didn't hike the Himalayas. But what was making them happy right at the heart of it was that they lived the small moments more authentically with others.”

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