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.



Is change really that new?


Today’s business world is faced with many challenges of change and disruption. That, we can all agree on. However, change and major disruption is not actually new! Change that we are experiencing today is often due to technological change as well as short – termism in a chaotic environment. Is this change necessarily bigger or different than other changes our environment has had to endure in the past? Think about how world wars, disastrous weather events, political coups and corporate takeovers have reshaped reality for many people over the centuries. On a personal level, we may experience accidents that lead to disabilities and loss of a loved one at any age, which has not changed over time.

Each generation is experiencing their change in their own way and they will face challenges relevant to the current disruptions in their world.  Some industries and professions will have different factors to drive their need for change. Overall, we find that many clients get stuck trying to understand the changing environment, or simply get lost in the chaos and become immobilised.

Understanding the environment

In an attempt to understand the chaos of today’s world of work, a popular term – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA), has evolved in management speak. Initially developed in the military, this term is being used as a framework to help leaders to understand the world they operate in as well as indicate the key strengths they need to survive.

The Agile method was introduced to create effective project management skills. Is all work in today’s business world 100% project based? Are all roles temporary or changing all the time? Unfortunately, one method seems to be adopted as best practice in many work environments. In some cases, the senior management have not changed their work practices and further alienated the employees but forcing change on them. Adopting one method of work does not necessarily alter the culture in which we work or help each individual to cope with change. It seems that proper analysis of work practices, employee needs and talent management is missing from the transition to new work environments.

Coaching tools to build resilience

Whilst these terms, VUCA and Agile, are helpful to understand the environment, more needs to be done to help leaders and their teams to cope with this dynamic world and build resilience.  How we experience and overcome change and chaos is an individual journey. From our coaching experience, we do not see enough proactive assistance to help individuals in their personal and professional development to build resilience before they are thrown in the deep end. Often organisations contact us after the change (or several changes) has been enforced and then they want remedial coaching when employees are not coping.

One of the key interventions that we use to help our clients cope with the world work is personality profiling tools. We use Birkman or Type tools such as MBTI or Majors to help our client really understand their behaviours, interests and needs to help them readily identify how they will build resilience to cope in a VUCA world as well as build relationships and communicate effectively to people who are different to themselves.

Being proactive and introducing professional development using personality profiling at the forming stage of teams and new recruits into the organisation will provide the tools to help everyone in the organisation prepare for and cope with the chaos. Hopefully then we can move away from the analysis of the environment and into building resilience to manage the environment effectively and create teams that successfully cope with a VUCA world.

Diversitas have supported with organisations of all sizes in developing and delivering effective career and executive coaching programs using personality profiling to build resilience for senior management and their teams. Go to for more information.