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Under Stress? Express Yourself!

By Claudette Rowley

Have you ever noticed that under stress, we often communicate less effectively? The "under stress, we regress" syndrome kicks in and sometimes we might as well be speaking a foreign language. When our stress levels are heightened, even normally clear communication can get short circuited.

Stressful times are usually the most important times to communicate with clarity, consciousness and intention. Whether you're at work or at home, focusing on how, when and where you communicate can make a noticeable difference in the reactions, connections and cooperation you get from others. Here are four tips for staying on the path to glitch-free communication:

  1. Agree on your communication ground rules. Who do you communicate with frequently in your professional or personal lives? Identify these people and consider designing your communication with them. In other words, how do you want to handle conflict or tension between you? What's the atmosphere you want to create in the relationship? What are other "rules" that you want to consciously agree on? This strategy can be used effectively in one on one relationships and with teams or groups.

  2. Stay off the horsemen. Dr. John Gottman, author and researcher, describes the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" in communication: defensiveness, blame/criticism, stonewalling and contempt. Whenever we mount one of these "horses", we've ceased to listen or truly communicate. I encourage you to notice the role these four horses play in your life. When confronted with a sensitive issue, do you tend to get defensive? When you're upset or angry, do you stonewall? How effective is your and others' communication at that point?

  3. If the answer doesn't have energy, it's the wrong answer. Whether you're communicating with yourself, one other person or a whole group, if the answer you come up with doesn't heighten the energy, make people feel better or open a new host of possibilities, there's a good chance it' s the wrong answer. A right answer - even if it might require tough actions-has energy, hope and a sense of potential.

  4. If you're confused, so is everyone else. Whether you're in a business relationship or a personal one, if you're feeling unclear about what you're communicating or the best way to communicate it, the recipients of your communication will feel as confused as you do. It's important to get clear about the message you intend to convey. Be a transparent communicator. People can't discern the intentions, the goal or even the history behind your communication unless you tell them. Consider erring on the side of "over- communicating" and observe the results.
Use the tips above to brush up, augment or refresh your communication. Communication is one of the most basic ways that we relate as humans and we do it all day long, so it behooves us to make it as clear, easy and intentional as we can. The ability to communicate your intentions, thoughts and feelings is one of the powerful ways you can express yourself. So the next time you're under stress, express!
Copyright © 2009 Claudette Rowley
Claudette Rowley, coach and author, helps professionals identify and pursue their true purpose and calling in life. Learn more at Claudette Rowley.com.
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