How a box of cotton buds can help you deal with stress

A client of mine who worked in a family business had to deal with a lot of verbal abuse from the business owner (his dad). Although resilient, there were times when the conflict caused my client excessive stress. A consequence of this was that he, in turn, became intolerant of the staff who reported to him.

Business owners often feel they must be extremely competitive to be successful, especially in the early years of the business. It is their behavioural style to win and be right at all times and, in some instances, at all costs. In the behavioural profiling system of DISC®, these people are known as the “High D” personality style.

It is critical we adopt coping strategies when dealing with this kind of person. One strategy is not to take it personally. High D personality people are often not deliberately trying to upset us; it is just their natural way of behaving based on their experience of getting what they want when they want it.

However, not taking it personally is easier said than done in the heat of the moment. Having a visual reminder of what we should do is useful, and this is where the cotton buds come in.

Cotton buds were invented in 1920 by a Polish-born American named Leo Gerstenzang. They were known as Q-tips, with the Q standing for “quality”.

My client with the difficult dad came to use the acronym QTIPS as his coping strategy, which meant:

Quit Taking It Personally

As he couldn’t buy Q-tips locally, he kept a clear container of cotton buds on his desk, which served as a visual reminder to ignore the negative emotions he felt when his dad was having a rant. It was a simple yet powerful way for him to get through each day.

Conflict is a regular occurrence in business and dealing with it is essential. Using the right strategy, even one as simple as QTIPS, can help avoid a lot of stress.

What strategy do you use to cope with stress and difficult people in your business?

I help business owners reduce stress and find a way forward. Email me at