Dealing with stress during communication

Does stress ultimately help or hinder communication? “Stress in small doses can certainly help us perform under pressure,” says Rachel Johnson, owner of Palomino Training Solutions. “Sometimes, though, stress can become constant and overwhelming which affects our communication, as we struggle to think clearly and act appropriately.”

At times of high stress, we are more likely to misread other people’s intentions, as well as send confusing non-verbal messages to others.

Often our behaviour can be off-putting and out of the ordinary. How many times have you felt stressed during a disagreement with your spouse, kids, boss, friends, or co-workers and then said or done something you later regretted?

If you can quickly relieve stress and return to a calm state, you’ll not only avoid such regrets, but in many cases, you’ll also help to calm the other person as well. It’s only when you’re in a calm, relaxed state that you'll be able to know whether the situation requires a response, or whether the other person’s signals indicate it would be better to remain silent.

Here are some ways to deal with stress during communication:

  • Learn to recognise when you’re becoming stressed. Your body will let you know if you’re stressed as you communicate. Are your muscles or your stomach tight and/or sore? Are your hands clenched? Is your breath shallow? Are you "forgetting" to breathe?
  • Take a moment to calm down before deciding to continue a conversation or postpone it.
  • Bring your senses to the rescue and quickly manage stress by taking a few deep breaths, clenching and relaxing muscles, or recalling a soothing, sensory-rich image, for example.
  • Look for humour in the situation. When used appropriately, humour is a great way to relieve stress when communicating.
  • Be willing to compromise. Sometimes, if you can both bend a little, you’ll be able to find a happy middle ground that reduces the stress levels for everyone concerned.
  • Agree to disagree, if necessary, and take time away from the situation so everyone can calm down. Physical movement or finding a quiet place to regain your balance can quickly reduce stress.

If you would like to learn more about how to improve your overall communication skills, join us at our upcoming 2019 public courses. They will be held on 9 September, 8 October or 7 November in Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban and the cost is R2,295 ex vat per delegate. This one-day interactive course includes modules on: understanding the communication process; organising your communication; overcoming communication barriers; and much more.

This course is also available as an onsite option at your work premises throughout SA (contact us for the very competitive prices) and also as an online (e-learning) option.

“Our aim is for delegates to leave our workshops feeling inspired and motivated, with a wealth of knowledge and hands-on tools that they are able to implement immediately,” says Johnson.

Palomino Training Solutions, which was established in 2006, offers over 150 training courses ranging from telephone etiquette, public speaking and business writing to conflict resolution, recruitment & selection and supervisory skills.

For more information, contact Rachel Johnson on 082-878-1164, email [email protected] or visit