The Triangle of Responding to Change & Stress! Where Do You Go First?

It is easy to get overwhelmed by all the models and theories around change, stress, emotional intelligence and so on.  Particularly during the current climate of uncertainty, heightened stress and endless challenges at home and work.  

I always find ‘The Response Scenario Triangle’ one of the most effective and useful models for understanding how we typically respond during times of stress, change or conflict.  It is such an accessible model for people, and one that can be applied quickly throughout the day when we find ourselves defaulting to unhelpful responses or behaviours.  It is also useful to gain greater insight into our bosses and colleague’s behaviours, especially when they are under stress!

Take 5 minutes to think about how you typically respond when your stressed?

Where do you go to first? Action, Emotion, Thinking?  

Example: Action, I like to be busy and feel as though I am dealing with the problem in a direct and tangible way. I just jump in.

Why do you go there?  

Example: It gives me a sense of control initially, forces me to not to dwell on how I am thinking or feeling about a situation. I like to be busy doing.  It is where I am most comfortable.

How long do you typically stay there for? What makes you leave that position and move into the next phase?

Example: often too long!  I will tend to go to the position of Thinking when what I am doing is not working or be bringing about the right results I desire as quickly as I want them.  Or, when it is pointed out to me that I have overlooked something. Then I will move to the Thinking phase.  I go to emotion last, and only if I have too!  I do not like to focus on how I am feeling and the emotions of others too much.  This is where I am least comfortable.

Having reflected on how you typically respond to change, conflict and/or stress, what have you observed? 

  • Do you miss any of the three phases?
  • What can you commit to doing to ensure you approach change and conflict in a more emotionally intelligent way?    
  • If you are not sure how you respond, ask friends, family members, and colleagues what they observe about your behaviours when under stress.

The purpose of this activity is to learn more about your default responses to stress, change and conflict and to put in place strategies to address those unhelpful responses or behaviours that impact us and those around us.


At Diversitas (Div-er-sit-as) the Latin word for “diversity” our focus and expertise is around the value of diversity in thinking, cultural perspective, personality, interaction styles, experience and creativity that make the world of work rewarding. We have a track record of successfully supporting organisations to develop their leaders and create engaged and productive teams. To find out more about our leadership and team development programs contact our team.


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