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In stressful moments at the office, new research shows, coworkers may revert to behaviors learned in childhood.

Are there days at work when you wish everyone would just play nice? One coworker is sulking in the corner, the other is talking another colleague down in hopes you’ll agree, while another is cracking jokes left and right to get attention and to try to make everyone HAPPY. There’s a reason for this kind of sandbox silliness, and it all is pretty easily traced to the roles we played as children in our families.

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As Anne Fisher writes in this article, the incessant jokester very likely came from a family marked by some sad events–illnesses, accidents, addictions–and he spent his childhood trying to cheer everyone up. The colleague who avoids confrontation at all costs probably grew up around too much conflict.

“Reactions happen in milliseconds,” Lafair says. “The trigger is usually stress. As anxiety rises, people’s ability to respond in a mature manner goes down.”

Read more here.


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