Have you ever noticed that in stressful times, communication sometimes goes awry? Whether it’s you communicating or someone is trying to communicate to you-things just don’t compute as well.
Well there is science behind that. In times of stress, our executive functioning skills decrease. That is our ability to think, process and effectively communicate, because in stress or times of crisis we tend to go into fight or flight mode. We are no longer thinking long term, we are no longer thinking about a process, or steps to accomplish something, we are in flight or fight mode and only thinking of 1 thing at a time: Safety. Whether that’s physical safety, emotional safety, financial safety-our ability to think and process isn’t there because we are searching and reacting as to how to get back to feeling safe.
So you might ask, how can we better communicate during this time period? Well there are a few strategies you could try and adapt to help those you are communicating with.
- Active listening: stop listening to respond and listen to listen to their feelings, thoughts or ideas.
- Strategic reflective listening: This is a key way to help someone feel secure that someone else gets them. This is not:
Person A: “I’m just so worried and scared.” Person B: “Your feeling worried and scared.”
This IS: Empathetic and strategic reflections going deeper into their world view rather than being in our own world view.
Person A: “I’m just so worried and scared.” Person B: “You don’t know up from down right now and just want to feel more at peace.”
Did person A say any of that? No-But do they most likely feel that way-YES! And hearing that someone else “gets” them will help them feel more connected.
- Communicate values: During a stressful time people get stuck on something, they can’t see the forest through the tree’s, so focusing on their values in conversation will help them get clear about what they want, and then from there you can explore the HOW to get there.
Example: Person A: “I’m never leaving my house, I guess for the next 2 years, I’ll just be home-I don’t want to get sick.”
Person B: “Your health is a priority, and staying safe and healthy is key. When you think about ways you can stay healthy while still being able to work and get basic necessities- what things come to your mind?
Communication is a deeper level skill, and one that can be challenging when a crisis arrives, but with deep empathy, slowing down to really hear people and helping to trigger their executive functioning to come back- will all aid in Communication for both parties.
Communication Challenge: Next time you hear someone in crisis mode, think about what they are most likely experiencing in their brain and world view. The uncertainty, anxiety and unease about life. Remember to slow down, actively listen and try to help by communicating their values and helping them regain control over what they do have control over.