Have you ever been on the receiving end of a conversation from someone who clearly is stressed? The stress may be in relation to something independent of you or may relate to your performance. Either way, for both parties, this situation can be a horrible place to be in.
Stress will kill your communication and can leave both parties upset, overwhelmed, uncertain, frustrated, angry, deflated, annoyed and unvalued.
Stressful and ineffective communications will inform, infect and impact your organisational culture.
I’m not perfect and, like many people, have been on both sides. Running late and overwhelmed, I have quickly glanced at an email, misread it assuming the worst and been abrupt with someone who asked a simple question.
On the receiving end, I have been the person with that simple question and have been left feeling deflated, upset, annoyed, frustrated and sometimes completed baffled as to what just happened.
So… what practical things can we start doing today to be more aware of when we are stressed and improve our communications?
Being tired, hungry or unwell can cause us to be short tempered, make mistakes, get agitated and increase our stress levels.
Don’t skip meals (and try to choose healthier options)
Carry snacks on you
Make sure you drink water throughout the day
If you are unwell, communicate this to your colleagues, reorganise your priorities (your health, by the way, is a priority), and build in time for rest
Don’t skip sleep
Exercise, even if it’s just a walk
Build in time to relax
Don’t check your emails in the middle of the night
Sadly, we can’t avoid organisational pressures. It’s part and parcel of the job. But we can better manage them so to reduce our stress levels.
Commit to making the time to plan
Take a look at your diary for the next 90 days, build in some time to think and allow for admin days. Make the time to plan each day before you start your day.
Delegate - don’t dump
Delegate the tasks which do not require your expertise. Fully explain what you need, why you need it and propose an approach. Before you delegate, make sure you understand the workload of the person who will be taking on the task, so you aren’t just relieving the stress of one more task for you and passing this on to someone else.
Smile, say ‘hi’, ‘bye’, ‘thank you’, ‘how are you’, ‘you look nice’, or ‘Happy Birthday’. It’s basic, it’s free and a fantastic stress reliever!
Keep your team informed
- Have regular meetings
- Share the load
- Ask your team and colleagues for their opinion
- Be honest, but diplomatic. There are some pressures that may not be appropriate for you to share. However, you can keep your team in the loop so they better understand the context. Including your team, especially during pressurised times, can help build morale and build camaraderie
Change can be exciting and stressful. When I came across the diagram below it really made me smile.
Read and study the stages of change
When you understand the stages of change and how change affects people physically and emotionally, you can objectively reflect on your own and others’ behaviour and communication
Seek to understand before seeking to be understood and ask questions before leading with assumptions
Don’t email when you are stressed or angry!
Draft it yes but if you are really feeling crap – sit in on it for a while before pressing send to minimise any damage
Don’t shoot the messenger, which is often the project manager in my case! 😊
Tara Humphrey is the founder of THC Primary Care, a leading healthcare consultancy specialising in workforce transformation and the only consultancy to have worked with 11 Training Hubs across South London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
Tara and her team also work with GP federations supporting the implementation of clinical services.
Tara has over 20 years of project management and business development experience across the private and public sector and has an MBA in Leadership and Management in Healthcare, is published in the London Journal of Primary Care and is the author of over 150 blogs articles. She presents her own podcast: The Business of Healthcare With Tara Humphrey.