Have you ever thought about how communication changes under stress? I’m not talking about the obvious signals as temporary stuttering or a trembling voice. I’m not talking about other indicators such as lots of ums and uhs or that you talk faster. What I’m talking about happens on a much more subtle level.


Mirror neurons

One thing that can happen is that the person you are communicating with, senses the stress and nervousness and adapts to it. That is a phenomenon that you might know from situations where one person is yawning and the other starts to yawn too. The same can happen with stress.

The person that originally didn’t feel stressed, adapts to the physical symptoms of stress. Flat breathing, faster heartbeat, feeling nervous. I guess that’s the least that you want, that others feel your stress as if it was theirs’.


Getting soaked up in stress

Especially in the workspace, it can happen that one person projects his or her stress to the rest of the team. All of a sudden, the whole group experiences stress. This happens via the communication level and via the subconscious physical level.


When that what you say is not heard

Also, the contrary can happen. People distance themselves on a conscious or unconscious level from a person that is stressed. That is when it doesn’t matter any longer what is said. The message will not come across. I guess there’s nothing worse than words that are said with the audience not hearing a word.


When your words become edgy or even sharp

When we are stressed, it might happen that our words become more hard than we want them too. Or even a bit cranky or aggressive. These are the moments when we say something to our partner or colleague that we later on feel sorry about.


Headless talks

Last but not least I want to point out is that our wording and thinking are less accessible when stressed. So there might be moments when you are missing the right words. Or even worse, when you aren’t able to process fully mentally what the other person is saying.


But what to do when stressed and you want to make sure that your communication is the least influenced by your stress?



Two things that can tackle a lot are awareness and attention. Notice how others react in communication with you. As soon as you notice that you infect people with your stress or that you lose them in your communication, do something about it.



Taking a couple of long and deep breaths calms down the body, tells it that everything is ok. As soon as the body starts to relax, the rest will follow. Slow and conscious breaths will make that your voice and talking become more relaxed.


Talking from your upper body

When stressed, there’s a lot of thinking going on while communicating. Not that the thinking then is clear and straightforward. Still we are very mind-driven, and this one can sense in the way we speak. Try to lower your voice, not only from a tonal perspective but try to do so even physically. As if you were speaking through your upper body or belly instead of your head.


Balancing your brain

If you know how to use these brain techniques, do so. Balancing the brain makes that you have better access to your thinking and speaking. Also it will allow you to have access to your social capacities so that arguments are less likely. Cross crawl exercises are perfect for this.



Hope you benefit from some of the tips!