Our wonderful Official Partners, Hatching Ideas have prepared a handy How To guide on approaching difficult conversations at work when stressed, how to identify when you are stressed and being aware of the situation before you initiate the conversation.
Before you approach a difficult conversation, make sure you check in with yourself.
If you are feeling stressed, you probably should not be having the conversation then.
You can tell you are stressed if you feel, or have:
– A tightness in your muscles
– Rapid or shallow breathing
– Feelings of anger or frustration
– Flushed face or chest
– A stomach ache
– Your fists clenching
– Difficulty concentrating
Why is it important to delay the conversation?
When you’re stressed, it impacts your ability to communicate effectively, and you are more likely to:
Overlook useful information
People who are under high levels of stress can only process up to three messages at a time - unlike the average of seven messages you can process when you aren’t stressed.
Say something you might regret
Evidence suggests when we are under stress, we are more likely to be spiteful and make snap judgements. Not helpful!
Forget the bigger picture
Stress can make us want to forge ahead and take action, without listening to advice or reason, or to consider all the options available.
What should you do instead?
It can feel frustrating to delay speaking about something that is important, but it’s crucial to recognise that, sometimes, addressing a difficult topic can do more harm than good.
- Organise a time when you will speak So you can direct your energy to that point, rather than worrying about when the point will be discussed.
- Make a note of the point you want to say Rather than ruminating over it - write it down!
It’s critical to prepare for difficult conversations
Is failing to prepare is preparing to fail?
Particularly if the situation is already stressful.
– Draw up a plan
Take some time to note the two to three points that you want to make.
– But, don’t avoid the conversation!
Sometimes we use the stress of a situation as an opportunity to defer a conversation that should happen - be honest with yourself, are you seeking an excuse not to say what needs to be said?
If the situation is stressful, does it mean they are stressed too?
Be understanding, and give the other person some slack
Remember how stress can effect you? Well, the same holds true of the other person. So, if you know they are stressed:
– Keep it simple and short
When someone is highly anxious, they are less able to process information, think in a logical way, or solve problems
– Be cautious giving advice
Individuals are less likely to take as much heed of direction or guidance when stressed
– Don’t rush
It can be tempting to try and get a difficult conversation over and done with as quickly as possible - which can result in missing the point entirely!
Is it often just as important how you say something, as what you say?
Be aware of your body language
With COVID-19 people are (understandably!) a bit more aware of body language than normal. Make sure you:
– Keep your gestures to a minimum
Too much movement - especially of your hands - can be seen as threatening, particularly if you are pointing.
– Continue to maintain eye contact
Even when have a conversation over video, as you risk coming across as aloof and disinterested.
– Try to keep your tone even
As people are more likely to perceive social cues as negative.
– Be aware of distancing
If you’re having the conversation face-to-face, due to COVID-19, the person might shift away from you whilst you’re talking. Remember:
– They are just trying to stay safe
So don’t let yourself get frustrated or offended.
– Be supportive, not judgemental
It’s something that we are all going to have to get used to for the moment
Just because you’ve stopped talking, does it not mean it’s over?
Prevent information distortion by following up in writing
How often have you had a conversation with someone and later it seems like they’ve heard something different from what you’ve said?
When someone recalls a conversation that they have had when anxious or stressed, there is often a tendency for bias to certain information.
– Writing down what you mean can act as a critical reference point.
But remember, keep it simple and just to the key points you want to make! War and peace is very rarely needed.
See more from our amazing Official Partner, Hatching Ideas