Reduce Stress with Good Communication
At work and at home, the ability to communicate effectively can improve your relationships and resolve conflicts that cause stress.
Good communication is crucial for reducing your stress levels. When we are misunderstood or criticised, we feel isolated and defensive. When conflict arises at home or work and we cannot discuss it in a constructive way, we often feel stressed and angry.
In any situation, let the other person know you are listening by nodding and making eye contact. Respond regularly by saying ‘yes’ or ‘uhuh’ and don’t be afraid to ask for an explanation if you don’t understand.
Dealing with Conflict
Remember that constructive criticism is the best way to deal with any conflict. Always refer to the person’s actions and behaviour, not to the person, for example ‘I disagree with the way you handle our child’. Equally, if someone is criticising you, try to listen without becoming defensive.
10 Tips for Better Communication
- Talk face to face when possible, to encourage good working relationships.
- Write faxes and emails early in the day, as your communication skills deteriorate as you get tired.
- Listen to what others say, even if you don’t agree.
- Criticise constructively and try to be specific.
- Try to resolve problems without losing control of your emotions.
- Try not to avoid conflict or touchy subjects – it’s better to talk it through.
- Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and listen to what they are saying.
- Express your opinions even if other people don’t share them.
- Try not to get upset.
- Admit when you are wrong or angry.
Express Your Feelings
It’s not always possible to avoid stress, but you can learn to cope with it better. Expressing your feelings can dramatically reduce stress levels and enhance your sense of well-being.
· Explore your feelings
Get in touch with your feelings. Being aware of how you feel – whether it’s anxious, depressed or angry – is the first step to dealing with a stressful problem. This means taking time out from your work and family to be alone. Keep a journal, take a walk on the beach or go and see a counsellor or therapist. Be honest with yourself.
· Confide in a friend
At times of stress, we all need support from friends and family. If you feel overwhelmed by events, it’s good to get a new perspective on the problem. Share your feelings with people you trust, so you don’t end up feeling exposed and even more stressed. But remember, friends may have their own problems so be prepared to listen as well as talk.
· Time it right
Choose a time when the other person can listen – not when they are rushing out the door. If your friend is too busy, let them know you have a problem and ask if the can set aside some time in the near future for you to talk.
· Say what you mean
Never be afraid to say what you think, feel and believe. If you disagree with someone, try to say so. This can be hard if you are afraid they will be upset or angry, but in the long run communicating clearly will lead to better relationships and lower stress levels.
· Keep to the facts
Under stress it’s easy to distort problems, exaggerate the significance of an event or make sweeping generalisations. When explaining a problem to someone, always be as specific, realistic and objective as you can.
· It’s okay to cry
Cry when you feel hurt or grief. These feelings are the natural result of change and loss and a good cry can get them off your chest. Make time to honour and express your feelings. Perform a simple ritual like lighting a candle. Not giving yourself time to grieve can cause long term stress and damage your health.
· Saying sorry
Take responsibility for your mistakes and feelings of remorse or guilt. Making amends will relieve your stress and improve your relationships. Write a card if you can’t say it face to face. Once you have righted any wrongs, you’ll be able to move on and leave your feelings of guilt behind.
· Be kind to yourself
Give yourself time to feel happy! Stressed people often don’t take time to laugh and feel pleasure and pride in their own achievements. Tell a friend why you’re proud of yourself. Go out and celebrate, or buy yourself a present.
Eight Steps to Well Expressed Anger
- Never shout at or hit another person when you are angry.
- Be direct and assertive. Don’t express anger in passive ways such as the ‘silent treatment’.
- Discharge aggression by hitting pillows or screaming – by yourself. Or do some strenuous exercise.
- Put your anger into words. Before you approach the person write down ‘ I am angry because…’
- Tell the person why you are angry in as calm and reasonable a tone as possible.
- If you become furious again, ask if you can leave the conversation and come back when you feel calmer and can express your thoughts more clearly.
- Give the other person time to respond. Remember that many people find anger frightening.
- Be brave – expressing anger doesn’t have to mean being out of control.