Top positive review
Taking the Stress Out of Stressful Conversations: Holly Weeks
Reviewed in the United States on August 6, 2016
An inevitable fact is that there will always be conversations which will bring about stress, the key is figuring out how to deal with these dialogues when they come up. Weeks’ (2001) article highlighted in HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Communication speaks to the three main communication errors individuals face in the workplace and also addresses three ways to counteract possible aversions that this stress brings about.
Weeks’ (2001) examines the types of stressful conversations one could have. She sums them up as the following introductions into a potential altercation: “I have bad news for you,” “What’s going on here?,” and “You are attacking me!” She suggests that these are three of the phrases that lead to individuals feeling offended, confused and frustrated. She goes on to give three examples, one for each of these scenarios, which help frame her position. I believe she does a great job at making her points in an easy to understand and intriguing way.
We all know how important communication is whether in a marriage, between friends and especially within the workplace. I’ve often heard the phrase uttered, “Communication is key,” to which I would have to agree. In order to effectively communicate Weeks’ suggests three ways in which we can prepare ourselves for a stressful conversation. “A good start is to become aware of your own weaknesses to people and situations” (Weeks, 2001). Understanding your vulnerabilities is an important way to know how you will react to a certain situation. “Once you know what your danger zones are, you can anticipate your vulnerability and improve your response” (Weeks, 2001, p. 173). The second suggestion to prepare would be to rehearse with a neutral friend, someone who is not going to judge you and someone who does not have the same communication style, this way it ensures impartiality (Weeks, 2001, p. 173). One quote that I really appreciated that brought the point home was “when your friend says ‘Tell me how you want to say this,’ an interesting thing happens: your phrasing is often much better, much more temperate, usable” (Weeks, 2001, p. 174). Then thirdly, be aware of body language. Nearly half of what is said can be interpreted through what you aren’t saying.
After preparations for the conversation have been established Weeks’ proposes three additional ways to manage the actual conversation. She recommends honoring thy partner, disarming by restating intent and fighting the tactics not the people (Weeks, 2001). Observing these theories while having a conversation can keep the stress to a minimum. “People think stressful conversations are inevitable. And they are. But that doesn’t mean they have to have bad resolutions” (Weeks, 2001, p. 179).
Weeks’ (2001) article is comprehendible in terms of taking away easy, tangible points that can be implemented immediately. I really valued her statement that “We need to learn communication skills, in the same way that we learn CPR: well in advance, knowing that when we need to use them, the situation will be critical and tense” (Weeks, 2001, p. 176). In order to implement these new skills within my life I have come up with a heuristic approach that I could incorporate whenever I face a stressful conversation. Always remember to alleviate stress by:
Speaking honorably to your partner
Tuning the phrasing
Rehearsing with a friend
Evaluating how you would react
Stating your intentions
Separating tactics from people
With these ideas in mind and developing a greater self-awareness of vulnerabilities anyone can walk away from a stressful conversation feeling confident that they didn’t explode and kept it professional. “The advice and tools described in this article can be helpful in unilaterality reducing the strain in stressful conversations” (Weeks, 2001, p. 180). If you want an easy to grasp read on how to manage a stressful conversation I would highly recommend giving this your attention.
Weeks, H., (2001). Taking the Stress Out of Stressful Conversations. In
Harvard Business Review Press (Eds.), HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Communication (pp. 165-180). Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation.