Effective communication

Communication is a double edged sword that is often difficult to make sense of, particularly when we are in the middle of a “stressful” situation.

It’s sometimes hard to remember that the way we communicate can provide a positive function as well as a negative one, for example we may say something that sounds quite positive in our head but once the recipient hears the comment they completely overreact. In this situation it is easy to become defensive and have an equally strong reaction.

Let’s be honest, we have all worked or currently work with people we may not gel with, people who’s views or character don’t align with our own. The first thing to keep in mind here is that it is ok for some constructive conflict or clashing of opinions, providing the motivation stems from a positive place in each of the parties involved. In this case a win/win can often be found.

In a situation where a win/win cannot be found then it is often useful to set the discussion aside temporarily until a holistically positive outcome can be achieved.

Naturally there are certain circumstances that require us to “deal with” or accept our limited or nonexistent control of a decision or process and in this situation it is vital that Leaders facilitate open and clear communication with everyone involved both directly and indirectly.

We can consider this an exercise because the more you mindfully communicate, the better you get at it. Equally if you communicate mindlessly then you will exercise and develop your skill in this area.

Some useful exercises in communication are:

Active listening

When communicating, whether it be vertically or horizontally, we must practice and execute active listening.

Make eye contact, listen to the words, understand the message behind the words and watch the body language of the person delivering the message.

Asking clarifying questions

We often speak up when we don’t hear someone but how often do you speak up when you don’t understand someone?

Paraphrase and repeat the message back in your own words to see if you really do understand, which also shows the messenger that you are listening, encouraging them to partake in a mutually agreeable conversation.

Consider your delivery and responses BEFORE saying them out loud

It’s important that we think before we speak.

Consider how it would feel to be on the other end of the conversation.

Practising mindfulness with the words we use, the tone we deliver with and the body language we show.

Check out our article on breathing and adrenal control for more tips…

Breathing for calmness

There are times when we all face high stress situations and we have all felt the body’s response to these situations; sweating, jaw clenching, a rapid pulse and a loss of clarity in decision making are just a few of the many signs of a stress response.

Imagine for a moment that your body controls Adrenaline* like a Volcano. The majority of the time it lays dormant and occasionally there may be some noise, some movement, something to remind you it’s there but certainly nothing concerning.

When the body is put under stress that “Volcano” (in this case our Adrenal glands) slowly releases a powerful substance used to fuel our body during uncommon events. For example, when you attend a job interview with new people, new surroundings and a number of unknown quantities, we get an Adrenal response, it keeps us alert, awake and in some extreme cases, alive!

However, like the predominantly dormant Volcano, we tend to ignore this until it happens, we don’t have control of our body’s responses to high stress situations. Sometimes we may not even realise we are in a high stress situation until it is too late.

When we are surprised, stressed or unconscious of our surroundings etc, we are at the mercy of our body’s natural impulses. Being shocked or surprised can cause Adrenal “dump”. In other words the Volcano EXPLODES! A substantial amount of Adrenaline is forced into the system in order to create a physiological response to the stressor, unfortunately, this “dump” often has the reverse effect and we “FREEZE”. Unable to control ourselves OR the situation.

With a few simple breathing techniques we can begin combating this extreme response to pressure and intense experiences.

1. Sit comfortably

Keep the upper body including the head as tall as possible. We want to airways to be as open as possible to accept as much “clean air” as they can.

2. Breathe through your nose!

Our noses are designed to take air IN! The path of air flow through the nose and into the lungs is the optimum route for warming and moistening the air and also removing any toxins or unwanted particles in the air we are breathing.

3. “Breathe into your stomach”

Diaphragmatic breathing or breathing into the lower part of your lungs allows more oxygen uptake and encourages the body to calm itself.

“… the lower lung is rich with the parasympathetic nerve receptors associated with calming the body and mind, whereas the upper lungs — which are stimulated by chest and mouth breathing — prompt us to hyperventilate and trigger sympathetic nerve receptors, which result in the fight or flight reaction.”1

4. Take 10 deep breaths.

Breathe in through the nose

Hold for 1 second

Slowly breathe out through the mouth and once you have expelled a “natural” amount of air, hold for a comfortable amount of time, no more than 10 seconds.

Practice these steps, as with anything, the more we practice the better we get and the more natural it is to respond in this way rather than panicking.