Stress Management: Taking Stress Out of Conversations


The nature of daily operations makes stress a common occurrence in every persons life.  Stress is described in medical terminology as the failure in .  It is defined as the failure of homeostatic that results from either physical or psychological stimulus.  Therefore, stress is a conditions that arises when the interaction between an individual and the environment leads to painful discrepancy which may be due to an existing situation or be imagined due to availability of resources.  There are a number of factors that may lead to stress and they range from psychological, biological and sociological factor.  There are several theories brought out to try and explain stress and its effect which range from poor economic situations, production and health problems.


Communication is an important aspect of human life (Weeks, 2001).  The importance is more defined in social beings and the development in human life have made it extremely relevant in ensuring the success of the human people.  The informal mode of communication in a social system has been depicted as the most effective mode of relaying information and ensuring interaction between humans which is important to the development of a more cohesive society.  Stress being a common occurrence in human life affects conversation and may directly have negative effects to the people involved (Weeks, 2001).  Though the human person may device means and mechanism that help in avoiding stress, any active individual faces stress in their undertakings as it is part of daily operations.  A stressful conversation has major negative implications and therefore every individual should be aware of the mechanisms used in the management of stress (Weeks, 2001).

Stressful Conversations

A conversation is classified as stressful if it in some way inflicts discomfort on either one or both parties involved in the communication (Weeks, 2001).  The conversations are characterized by either bad news that may have negative effect on either parties, a change in the intensity of conversation characterized by a a change in attitude and a poor attitude towards the bearer or the receiver of the message that leads to the use of profanities.  The aftermath of such conversation include embarrassment, confusion, fear and sometime anger and therefore most people avoid them or are poor in communicating in such situations.  Dodging, appeasing and ignoring such conversations may seem to be appropriate for an organization but the avoiding tactics are quite costly in an organizational setting as efficiency in communication is as important as the strategic development and implementation of plans (Weeks, 2001).  Therefore, every organization must develop and implement  communication strategy that minimize the risk of stressful conversation.  Stressful communication takes on the following forms:

Delivery of bad news

Communication of unpleasant news is an experience that many would not want to go through (Weeks, 2001).  In such situations the speaker is often tense and quite apprehensive of the communication direction as he knows the effect the news will have on the receiver.  The problem in delivery of bad news is compounded by any personal knowledge that the information bearer may have on the receiver that have a direct bearing on the effect the information will have on the psychological and economic well-being of the individual (Weeks, 2001).  Thus, a prior knowledge of the expected receiver’s reaction and the mode of communication may affect the effectiveness in communicating the tidings.  Getting off at the right point is the major concern in the delivery of news that is potentially stressful.  If the conversation kicks off in good spirit there is a high likelihood that it will proceed on in the same spirit.  A poor start to the conversation may affect the whole session as conversations tend to be so emotionally charged and few people have mastered the art of control in such highly charged situations.

Being the Receiver

Delivery of bad new is a hard task, but being the receiver in such stressful conversations is harder (Weeks, 2001).  It is common for conflicts to arise from very unexpected situations as conversations turn so abruptly for the worse without any warning.  In very stressful conversations the objectives of communication are overridden as little sense is made of the conversation.  Conversations are a result of individual behavior and are greatly affected by the environmental setting and individual upbringing (Weeks, 2001).  These are some of the factors that make it almost impossible to determine the behavior of the bearer and thus be able to managed the conversation effectively.  Past experiences are seen to play vital role in the behavior of individuals in a conversation.  A person’s reaction in a conversation could take an unexpected turn due to psychological situation (Weeks, 2001).  When an individual is in low moods conversation with him tend to be strained and outbursts are never far from calling as any form of negative comment, observation or perception may trigger a chain of activities that end up disrupting the communication.  Furthermore, individual effort is important in communication and each person should be well prepared to handle stress in conversations by:

a)      Identifying the areas that they are weak in.

This may involve the establishment of the situations or settings that the individual seem to have vulnerabilities and is therefore more prone to stress.  A good start to a conversation is characterized by awareness about oneself (Weeks, 2001).  Individuals may be vulnerable to hostility and may either act in manner that tends to withdraw or escalated the situation.  No reaction is best, and the knowledge of how an individual is likely to react play a great role in determination of the effectiveness of the conversation and help in mastery in handling stressful situations (Weeks, 2001).  Self awareness is not about endless analysis as it is a basic evaluation of oneself from past experiences.  Self analysis paves way for a definition of how the individual should react and can anticipate a moment of vulnerability long before the conversation reaches that state.

b)      Individual must be knowledgeable on how to react during stressful conversation and when they feel vulnerable.

By knowing areas of weakness an individual can anticipate a vulnerability and thus improve on the responses.  The content in the communication phase determine the success of the sessions.  Including multiple information that are depressing in nature creates a stressfully conversation as the effect of the first bit of bad news may spill over to the next and the cycle continues till no communication is taking place (Weeks, 2001).  Taking time in communication is very important as it gives the two parties enough space to comprehend the implications of the information and thus helps in ensuring that they behave in a justifiable manner.  Furthermore, anticipation of problems that may actually affect the communication helps in ensuring that the they are addressed effectively and ensure communication efficiency.  This calls for training as identification is an art that should be perfected if it is to help in handling the communication mechanism in the best way possible (Weeks, 2001).

c)      Training is necessary in improving confidence levels.

Individuals can employ the assistance of their friends in training.  During this sessions the individuals should relay their emotions and then rephrase their response in manner that is honest and not threatening.  This help in the elimination of emotionally charged responses as the individuals are well rehearsed and behave in a composed manner.  An important consideration in choosing the partners is that he should not have the same problems faced by the trainee (Weeks, 2001).  The training should be made as simple as possible and should involve basic content identification and experiments on all dimensions a communication phase may take.  The body language and other non-verbal signs should also be upgraded such that they may relay a positive approach to communication.  This is hard to implement as the control of the non-verbal body signs is sub-conscious and requires a considerable level of commitment and experience to handle them effectively.

Conversation Management

Being prepared for a stressful conversation is not enough and therefore individuals have to come up with tactics that will ensure effective communication.  Stressful conversations occur in a manner that they can not be foretold and no matter the level of preparedness surprise is common (Weeks, 2001).  The burst up in such conversations may leave the concerned parties surprised by the direction of the conversation while they still are trying to catch up and defend themselves due to their large egos, the aftermath being the senseless sentiments that are so common in stressful conversation.  The employment of preparedness mechanisms is often forgotten at the initial phases of the burst up and therefore conversation management skills are a necessary composition in any individual’s corporate skills (Weeks, 2001).  The implementation of a good communication mechanism helps in addressing the needs of the organization and promotes a culture of free communication.  Communication is made up of processes, policies and people and is therefore closely associated with organizational culture in a corporate setting.  The people charged with implementation of organizational policies should come up with clear policies that pave way for the adoption and implementation of efficient communication systems that puts into consideration the organization communication needs, organization culture and the interaction of communication processes.  A good communication system plays an important part in conversation as it determines to a great extent the efficiency in relaying information(Weeks, 2001).

The bearer of any bad news should acknowledge their part of problems as this goes a long way in helping the listener accept the bad message without necessarily being provoked (Weeks, 2001).  Employing tactics that allow a partner to push his perceptive and also allow the individual to state the intentions aids a rational approach (Weeks, 2001).  This approach is very important in situations where a conversations has taken on a confrontation dimension as it redirects it to agreement without necessarily turning it to appeasement.  Such tactics ensure that no one losses in the approach.

Handling stressful situations require an approach that is aimed at fighting the tactics employed by the other party (Weeks, 2001).  It is very important for the individual to identify the tactics that the partner is using before choosing an appropriate method in counteracting its effects.  The approach helps in neutralizing the tactics without necessarily having to be offensive or timid (Weeks, 2001).  Furthermore, the approach eliminates the need for determination of the underlying reasons behind the constrained relationship as it is concerned with the management of the problem.  Clarifying intentions by restating them in the definition of the objectives of the communication session eliminates the problems that result from erroneous views based on individual perception (Weeks, 2001).  In clarification of the intentions, the bearer should ensure that her words are in line with the objectives of the communication.  The open identification of a tactic disarms the user of the tactic and should be used when the conversation is taking on a direction deemed to be stressful (Weeks, 2001).


There are a number of factors that constitute to the development of a better communication mechanisms (Weeks, 2001).  The techniques developed are based on the elements of a good communication mechanism.  The mastery of clarity, neutrality and temperance enhance implementation of a good communication mechanism and helps in dealing with the most complex of challenges stress included.

Clarity is an aspect that lets the words express themselves (Weeks, 2001).  The individuals should be clear on what they really want.  Clarity is enhanced by a clear definition of what is to be communicated and possession of good communication skills that enhance confidence.  In a situation where one or both partners are bound to be hurt by the communication, people tend to shy from clearly communicating their messages a situation that leads to increased hurt as the partners suffer from excitement and the pain of not knowing what really happened.  It should be noted that the negative effect of the messages are not due to the messages but due to their implication and therefore there is little one can do to change the actual condition.

The tone used in non-verbal communication system determines the success of the method in transmitting the information (Weeks, 2001).  The tone used, and other non-verbal communications relays a great deal of information on the perception adopted by the partners.  Adopting a neutral tone that, made possible by training and experience, helps in ensuring that communication is not affected by non-verbal factors that imply bias and thus impede the conversation.  Adopting a neutral tone when a conversation turns sour further helps in redirecting it towards a more rational approach.

Most languages have wide vocabulary that can be used in expression, as meaning can be constituted in various forms (Weeks, 2001).  Words, depending on how they are used, may bring out the same meaning but have different effects on the receiver or bearer (Weeks, 2001).  Phrasing the words in a manner that conceals stress helps in reliving the situation as the negative reaction associated with a poor choice of words is eliminated.  The goal in a good communication system is to transmits and receive efficiently and a good choice of words ensures this.


Stress management is a subject that every person should be conversant with especially in communication.  Having neutral attitude to a conversation and people in general helps in the elimination of the dangers that may arise from prejudice.  Practicing in a continuous manner not only helps in building confidence but also ensures individuals gain skills that can be used in handling a variety of stressful conversation.  A good communication policy helps in conversations thought training at organizational and individual level on aspects of good communication skills and mastery of language help a great deal in ensuring clarity and thus reducing the risk of stressful conversations developing into problem whose effects will be manifested in the whole organization.

Reference List

Weeks, H. ( 2001). Taking Stress Out of Stressful Conversations. Harvard Business Review.

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