Stress, Truth, And The Voice Of Reason (Part 2)

by Doc Orman, M.D.

Stress, Truth, And Reason Part 2This week, I’m focusing on the relationship between stress, truth, and the ability to reason at a very high level.

To highlight this relationship, I introduced you in my first post to the late Ron Smith (1941-2011), beloved Baltimore radio talk show host, also known as “The Voice Of Reason,” who died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 70 in December of 2011.

Ron, who was also an avid golfer, an ex-Marine, and an ex-stock broker, hosted a daytime radio talk show starting in 1985, where he earned the title “The Voice Of Reason” because of his honesty, thoughtfulness, depth of knowledge, fairness, and respect for both his callers and guests, regardless of their political leanings or opposing points of view.

Stress, Truth, And Reason

I mentioned in that first post that I, too, personally mourned the loss of Ron Smith.  As a Baltimore resident, I had listened to his radio broadcasts whenever I could, for many years.  And I, along with many other loyal listeners, learned a great deal from his directness, his respect for differing points of view, and most importantly, from his ability to think and reason so masterfully. 

“I also believe that Ron taught me a lot about how to have less stress and tension in my life.  I credit him with being one of the mentors who helped me to develop the stress coaching and counseling skills that I make use of every day now….

If you are skilled at thinking about life and applying high-level reasoning that keeps you connected to certain fundamental truths about reality, or about any problem or situation that might be stressing you, you are going to have much less stress than others who lack such high-level reasoning skills.”

What Made Ron Smith Such A Skillful Thinker?

I frequently marveled at Ron Smith’s ability to take all sorts of complex, difficult current event topics, with a tremendous amount of rhetoric and diverse competing opinions, and quickly boil them down to one or two key fundamental issues.  He had this knack of getting to the heart of a complex debate, and to reveal the key underlying question that was either being totally ignored or that was being hidden from view because of all the other hot button emotions that were swirling around and clouding the picture.

Getting To The Heart Of Any Stressful Problem In Your Life

This same skill of reasoning, which Ron Smith applied so well in the political and current events arenas, is exactly what we need to deal with many of the stressful problems we experience in our lives.

Much too often, we dance all around the central driving force behind the problem, without ever bringing it to the surface where it can be examined and dealt with directly.  Instead, we get caught up trying to deal with superficial, and often conflicting, aspects of our problem, without ever getting down to its deeper, fundamental causes.

Dysfunctional Teams

While there are many examples I could give you about how the lack of this core reasoning skill can result in unwanted stress and problems in our lives, I am going to suggest a book for you to read that demonstrates this skill much more memorably than I could ever describe it.

The book is called The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team, by Patrick Lencioni, a business consultant and keynote speaker.

In this book, the author creates a fictional Silicon Valley start-up company, called DecisionTech, Inc., which is undergoing serious growing pains and is in need of a major overhaul…mostly from within.  To this end, the Board of Directors dismisses the reigning CEO, who is also one of the co-founders, and replaces him with an outsider, Kathryn Petersen, who was semi-retired and who had very little high tech experience, spending most of her career as an operations executive for an automobile manufacturing company.

Kathryn was brought in to figure out what was going wrong with the company, and why it was rapidly losing ground to its several competitors.  She quickly reasoned that her first goal was to try to understand the dynamics of the executive leadership team in order to determine if this team was capable of turning things around.  So she spent the first two weeks of her new CEO assignment, simply observing what was already going on in the company, and what was already going on within the leadership team.

Getting To The Heart Of The Matter

During these first two weeks, as Kathryn sat in meeting after meeting with her leadership team, there was chaos, disagreement, demoralization, and disarray all around her.  Finally, after she had observed enough to form an idea of some of the deeper issues this team was experiencing, she scheduled a two-day off-site retreat to both share her concerns and lay out a new direction.

Kathryn had seen similar dysfunctional teams at other places where she had worked.  She was also married to a high-school basketball coach, who was very skilled at building winning teams himself.

I’ll leave it to you to read about all five of the major dysfunctions she uncovered and eventually corrected.  The key thing to notice here, is that she was able to take all of the conflicts, all of the personality clashes, all of the differences of opinions, all of the poor performance in multiple areas of the company…and boil them all down to five major problems, the curing of which could turn the entire company around.

For example, one of the first things she recognized and shared with her new executive team was that there appeared to be a total lack of trust among members of this group.  This was a fundamental problem…a fundamental source of the team’s dysfunction…that was not being recognized or addressed at all.

And without addressing this first fundamental dysfunction, nothing else was going to make any difference.

Commitment And Relationships

In a similar fashion, many people struggle with stress and tension in their non-work-related interpersonal relationships.  Often, one of the fundamental causes of this stress is a lack of commitment, from one or both parties involved, to doing what is necessary to create a mutually satisfying, successful relationship. 

Try as they might to deal with all the many derivative problems that can emerge from this one underlying key dysfunction, most couples or partners will not be able to salvage the relationship until they finally recognize and confront the deeper problem that is tearing their relationship apart. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean that they will always be able to resolve this key underlying issue, once they face up to it, but if they fail to address it entirely, they’ve got little chance at all.

This is the power of getting to the heart of the matter.  It’s a reasoning and thinking skill that Ron Smith demonstrated time and time again to anyone who might have been listening to his program.

It is a fundamental reasoning skill that each of us could…and do…benefit from whenever we make good use of it.  But it’s not the only reasoning skill that made Ron Smith such a high-performing thinker.

In my next and final post on this subject, I’ll reveal a second key thinking skill that Ron Smith frequently demonstrated and that enabled him to proudly and deservedly be called “The Voice Of Reason.”

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