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Pick your “snakes” carefully

July 19, 20231 min read

I read an article last week about “social buffering.” That’s what we might call “co-regulation,” or supporting someone we care about (friend, family, someone we’re providing services to…it could even be a complete stranger to whom you are showing kindness).

Stressed rattlesnakes calm down in the presence of a snake friend. Yeah, this has big implications. The experiment was reported in Phys Org… and I immediately thought, ”Yeah, and misery loves company.”

I’ve worked in companies with stressed two-legged rattlesnakes. When they’re caught up in their grumpiness and distress, who do they choose to help them out? I wanted to believe that if it’s another stressed rattlesnake (with or without legs), they’d only help each other’s heartrate escalate.

Turns out that the research only focused on the presence of another snake, no qualifiers about whether or not it was a “friend.” So if the two legged snakes are “hissing” in the office, does social buffering work? Does it have to be a person who is calmer to help them settle a bit?

Well, I know this. When I hit agitated rattlesnake status, being around other angry people only makes me meaner and madder. Being around people who are calmer--even simply silently present--helps me. Pick your “snakes” carefully. Pick the ones who can help you calm--and check out social buffering.

the trauma informed academyelizabeth powertrauma informedtrauma responsivepick your snakesresiliencechangehuman resources
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Elizabeth Power

Elizabeth Power, M. Ed., CEO of EPower & Associates, Inc. , is a sought-after speaker, facilitator, and consultant. EPower & Associates is the parent organization for The Trauma Informed Academy(r). "All we do is help people with change, resilience and self-care, and learning to live trauma responsively. And everything is done from the trauma-informed perspective," she says. "Even courses directly about working with trauma are about change."

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