Tag Archives: stressed out

Communicating Effectively under Stress:
“This is horrible!”

"Enlightenment" Dalai Lama by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Enlightenment” Dalai Lama by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

Fear and anger are signals that warn you to pay attention to your physical surroundings, your situation or your relationships. Appropriate fear and anger often mean that you may be in danger or are being treated unfairly.

Becoming overwhelmed with emotion is counterproductive to taking appropriate action or communicating with others. So when you experience fear or anger, take a deep breath, and then switch over to your intuition and rational mind to determine what to do next.

Calm down

It is very important to calm down and get centered before you speak. Otherwise your anxiety, hostility or panic will be ineffective and infectious. Your tone of voice and sarcasm will betray you and put the other person on the defensive and prevent you from resolving the situation.

You may need to talk with someone else or take a walk alone to calm down. It may take a few minutes or it may take hours to feel balanced and calm enough to be able to have an effective conversation. In serious situations, such as infidelity or a breakup, it may take days or weeks to get enough handle over your feelings to have an effective conversation.

If someone wants to talk immediately but you need time to feel in control, it is critical that you say that you need to calm down first and to do so. Give a time frame: “I need some time to calm down. Let’s talk in five minutes/after dinner/tomorrow.” Otherwise, if you simply walk away, the other person may feel rejected, abandoned, or ignored and become angry, which is not helpful.

If the other person says, “What do you mean? Let’s talk about it now,” just firmly say, “That’s not going to be productive. I need some time.” Stand firm and don’t be swayed.

Tone of voice

Tone of voice and body language are more important than words. Some research says that they account for 80% of what is communicated. They can convey positive intention, self-control, respect, and self-respect, which will make it more likely that others will listen to you. Or they can convey weakness, loss of control, and desperation, which can freak people out or put them on the defensive. Even if you are extremely angry, it is more powerful and effective to show self-control than to let your anger loose.

No judgment

Avoid negative judgment, name-calling, and expressing yourself in a way that makes the other person feel attacked. Keep yourself from exaggerating or listing all the bad things the other person has ever done. Then it more likely that the other person will actually listen to you.

You’ll have a more productive conversation if you say,  “I waited for 20 minutes. What happened?” than if you exclaim: “You drive me crazy the way you are always late. You are so rude!”

Feelings

Some people tend to control others rather than simply state their own feelings because they don’t want to seem weak or self-oriented. Yet a direct declaration of one’s feelings is powerful, not weak. Rather than attacking the other person, state your own feelings: “I was worried.” “I felt angry.” “I’m disappointed.” “I was sad.” “I felt frustrated.” When you state a feeling, no one can reasonably argue with it.

Feelings are not judgments such as, “I feel that you are selfish.” That’s a negative judgment pretending to be a feeling.

It is important not to become identified with or immersed in what you are feeling. If you are sad, you can show a little sadness, but don’t fall apart. If you are angry, express the fact that you are angry, but don’t become ballistic.

People who are able to express their emotions without being overwhelmed by them garner more respect and empathy from others. They are also more capable of dealing effectively with the problems being signaled.

Desires and needs

Express what you desire, value, or need. “I would like more intimacy.” “I want a trusting relationship.” “I need support.” “I would like to have more time alone each day.” “I want to pursue my passions.”

Some people don’t like to express their needs because they don’t want to appear needy. Yet a direct declaration what you value and want is less manipulative than using blame or guilt trips. Such openness also supports the other person’s autonomy, allowing the other person to choose his or her actions freely.

Needs and desires are general, not tied to a particular person. For example, “I need you to love me more” should be replaced with “I want to be in a relationship with someone who really loves me and expresses it.”

No one can argue against your desires or needs even if they might not fulfill them.

Make a specific positive request

  • Specific: General requests such as “Support me” or “Clean your room” are not nearly as effective as a specific request such as “Would you help me pay the bills tonight?” or “Would you be willing to put your clothes lying on the floor inside your closet?”
  • Positive: Beware of saying something like “If you’d just get up off the couch and help around the house once in a while.” This reeks of hostile criticism.
  • Request: A request is not a threat or a demand. By making a request, you offer the other person the opportunity to do something nice for you. Rather than a scolding session, where everyone feels lousy, it can be a win-win situation, in which someone will likely help you and you will feel appreciative.

Transform the relationship

If you make repeated reasonable requests and another person repeatedly refuses to accommodate you, that is the other person’s prerogative. However, you should probably change your expectations of the other person and in some cases consider changing the scope of the relationship.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Anger: ‘I have a right to be angry.’”

Watch “Expressing Anger Effectively.”

Read “Random Thoughts from So What I Really Meant.”

“Stress is killing me.”
The surprising facts about stress.

"Nessun Dorma" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Nessun Dorma” by Mimi Stuart ©

Research shows that having stress is healthier than having little or no stress at all, as long as you have some control over your life. People who have some stress and some control over their lives tend to live the longest, feel happiest, and have the strongest immune system. Thus, active participation in directing your life with its built-in difficulties turns out to be better for you than passive acceptance of an easy life or feeling helpless in face of a difficult life.

Stress triggers release of cortisol in your body, and having too little cortisol can be just as unhealthy as having too much. Moreover, research shows that simply embracing stress rather than trying to get rid of stress causes people to handle difficulties better, and makes stress less likely to lead to depression, divorce and health problems.

This is good news, because an interesting and enjoyable life involves taking risks and facing the unknown, both of which are inherently stressful. The more practice we get in dealing with uncertainty and hardships, the more confident we can be in our approach to life. The more actively we endeavor to face and deal with challenges, the better we become at taking appropriate action, and the healthier the accompanying stress is to our system.

Imagine that you are deciding whether to take on a stressful job or a stress-free job. Consider first that there is a point where having too much going on in your life can cause you to lose control over your life. However, if you have too little going on in your life, your passivity and boredom are likely to lead to unhappiness and a feeling of meaninglessness or emptiness. Thus, it is important to pursue what gives you meaning and that you gain the confidence to handle the accompanying stress.

Taking control of your life means taking positive steps to deal with challenges. Such positive steps include the following:

• prioritize what is important in your life,
• face your difficulties head on,
• take steps to change what you can about any given situation,
• change your perspective about circumstances you cannot change,
• develop your sense of humor,
• take care of yourself physically and emotionally.

By all means, take risks!

It is key to recognize that even when we don’t have control over external circumstances, we do have control over our perspective, attitude and response to external circumstances. Thus, Viktor E. Frankl survived the holocaust.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

~Viktor E. Frankl

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Watch Ted Talk by Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend