Can Communication Cause Stress?

To understand this, firstly we need to explore how a stressful situation can arise. We know that external information goes through a number of filters of our subconscious and eventually builds our internal representation of a situation or memory. This then directly links to how we feel (known as our ‘state’) which subsequently influences our behaviour and physiology. In simplistic terms, if we understand and work on our internal representation we can help move towards a desired physiology and behaviour. But how does this link to the business world and environment that we are embedded in on a daily basis? Can you help reduce the chances of a colleague feeling anxious about a situation? You can’t eliminate it but being aware of someone’s change in state and having a simple discussion can help the way they feel – I know this because it happened to me.

I simply messages someone at work and said – “hiya, are you free to chat?” they replied immediately “yes” so I called them. In my mind this was a quick question that I needed to ask and as I hadn’t spoken to this person for a few days I thought it would be good to speak on the phone. For my colleague the experience was significantly different. The person joined the call and was talking at a quicker pace than normal and answered my questions before I had even finished asking them. At the end of the call I asked – “is everything OK?” the speed of her speech slowed down and she said “yes I’m good thanks…I was just worried when you said you wanted to speak and I was feeling anxious and panicking”. We discussed and ended the call.

I spent a moment asking myself – what did I do different with this person than anyone else – the truth is that there was nothing different but after I wrote the steps down it dawned on me that my questions had quickly built as an internal representation that caused the feeling of anxiety. From this day forward I challenged myself with this particular person to adopt my question when I needed to have a quick chat over something. I now add context in which has since helped this person reduce the anxious feeling when I ask to catchup – so now my question is “hiya, are you free to speak about X”.

From this experience I took two learnings:

1. It was important to ask how the person was feeling at the end of the first conversation, had I have not asked that I wouldn’t have reflected to change my communication style