A lesson on how to react in the face of a challenging situation.

By Amber Hudson and Luke Sklar

You’ve felt it before, that negative rush of emotion when faced with a stressful situation at work:  boss loses it over poor quarterly results, a co-worker’s unfounded accusation, an infuriating email.

The first instinct is to lose your cool and start throwing elbows; to stop listening, to get defensive and, let’s face it, let your emotions override your normally calm state.   The antidote to a potentially poisonous situation is to be S.O.B.E.R.  Hersh Forman and his wife Lee of Mindfulness Toronto adapted the following acronym (originally created by psychologist Dr. Alan Marlatt):

S – Stop

O – Observe

B – Breathe

E – Expand…your thinking, look at this in the grand scheme of things

R – Respond…in a way that’s consistent with your (brand’s) values

It’s beautiful in its simplicity.  Too bad these brands didn’t start with “S” as in stop but rather jumped to “R” as in (knee jerk) respond:

  • Lululemon founder Chip Wilson’s some women’s bodies just don’t work for it” reaction to the sheer-fabric accusations.
  • JC Penny brought in Ron Johnson who got rid of promotions in favour of everyday low pricing.  The American consumer flipped out.  Ron was fired.
  • Amy’s Baking Company, where the owner lost it on Facebook after social media skewered them after appearing on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.
  • RadioShack attempting to generate cool by changing its name to The Shack.
  • The Gap’s tweet during Hurricane Sandy “All impacted by #Sandy, stay safe!  We’ll be doing lots of Gap.com shopping today.  How about you?”

So the lesson for marketers is in the face of a challenging situation, take a little lesson in mindfulness and be S.O.B.E.R.