stress-free communicationGuest article

Stress-free communication

The normal meeting madness

The meeting has already lasted one and a half hours. You have the feeling that once again nothing has been achieved, but that you have actually just wasted your time there. Right at the beginning of the meeting, colleague L. had used a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation to explain the facts which, according to his analysis, are the cause of the current difficulties in the project. With increasingly complicated words, he had explained how all this was probably connected.

You were so bored, you almost closed your eyes. This monotonous tone of voice, this never-ending amount of information. And then Mrs B. also started to ask questions that were just as complicated, because in her opinion important points had not been taken into account. Mr L. then began to answer these questions in a rambling manner with long box sentences and down to the smallest detail.

You just don't get it anymore. A big question mark was clearly written on your forehead. The two had long since lost all the other participants in the meeting, when suddenly M. hit the table with his fist and shouted "That's enough of all this talk! Let's finally start doing something!"

Colleague E., who had kindly taken care of the coffee and a few cookies (at least you didn't have to starve to death), really jerked and slipped a little deeper into her chair. She doesn't like it at all when it gets loud. And Mr. T.? He seemed completely absent for at least half an hour, seemed to be absorbed in his own thoughts. You still tried to save the situation with a little joke, but reaped only scathing looks from colleague L. and colleague B. After all, this is a serious problem!

Meanwhile colleague M. had left the room. He did not want to waste any more of his time. And you definitely don't feel like it anymore. Let them alone see how the project continues. You could have had some cool ideas. But nobody wanted to hear them...

What exactly is the problem?

I have experienced many, even very many, such and similar meetings in my professional life to date. Annoyed meeting participants, no results, wasted time. But what's going wrong? Why can't we have a constructive meetingin which everyone can make a contribution and at the end there is a clear plan according to "Who does what by when?

Why do some people rock each other high into aggressiveness? Why do others fall silent? The answer is as simple as it is complex. It is: Because people are different and these differences are ignored!

People communicate differently and are motivated by different things. Due to stress, these differences come to the fore even more and sometimes even cause additional stress for others. But now slowly for now.

Everyone has a "favorite language"

Everyone has something like a "favourite language", comparable with his mother tongue. This he masters with aplomb. Even if he were to be awakened suddenly at night, he would immediately be able to communicate in this language. He also knows and masters other languages, but here it costs him sometimes more, sometimes less energy to speak them.

Some people prefer a pure objective way of conducting a conversation. Numbers, data and facts are in the foreground their perception, logical thinking determines their communication. Just like with colleague L. from the meeting example.

Others are of the more short-lived variety. Clear, concise statements, invitationsthat are aimed at doing are their form of expression. Long discussions, "Maybe", "Could", "Eventually" - this is not for them. Something has to happen. And as quickly as possible. Mr. M. from the meeting is one of them.

People like Ms B., on the other hand, stand for clear values. They have a firm opinion on most topics. They question everything to see if it fits their values and convictions. Quality is important to themwhich is why the presentation of colleague L. is also examined in detail.

And now you come along! Someone who likes to have fun in life. Someone who does things with Humor and playful lightness is on. Work, too. You, who always has a flippant saying on your lips, who comments many things with a wink and sometimes takes unusual paths. Numbers, dates and facts bore you to death. You much prefer creative brainstorming and a lively exchange.

Recognizing the differences

You realize it doesn't really seem to fit together. Only: Very few people are aware of these differences! They automatically assume that their "favourite language" is also spoken and understood by everyone else. The first step towards relaxed, stress-free communication thus leads you to observe, to recognize the differences.

  • Observe yourself. What are you talking about? What words do you use? What is your tone of voice? What are your facial expressions, gestures and posture?
  • Observe your conversation partners. How do they speak? Do they use many words? Or rather few? Do they ask questions? Or do they rather give instructions? Is their tone of voice monotonous or lively? Do they support what is being said with gestures? Or do they tend to keep quiet?
  • Observe your reactions to the (speaking) behaviour of your conversation partners. When do you automatically experience yourself on one wavelength with your counterpart? Which behaviour leads to resistance or rejection? How do you behave then?

This is where stress begins to arise! Notice: Not being addressed or being allowed to speak in your "mother tongue" for a longer period of time leads to stress.

favourite language

I, for example, like to tell a story in a lively way, with sweeping gestures. In general, I can hardly keep calm. I like to be in motion. Humour, even puns, are very important to me. Flappy remarks you will hear from me quite often.

I also like to discuss serious topics with a wink. That does not always meet with approval! I'm too loud, too hectic, too close, I lack the necessary seriousness. These are all evaluations made by people who prefer a different way of communication.

I'm okay, and you're just as okay!

I have used two keywords in the previous section: Observation and values. As soon as you start to observe people neutrally and not to judge their behaviour, you are already a big step further on your way to relaxed communication!

Perceiving that others tick differently than you. And not to judge this otherness as wrong or funny or inappropriate or whatever, but simply as accept diversity. Consider the other person as just as okay as you consider yourself. This alone is very relaxing, because you don't have to spend energy to defend your behaviour as right and label the other as wrong.

Understanding what happens

To go a little deeper into the matter now, let us dive briefly into the unpleasant side of our personality - our Stress behaviour - off. All of us start to exhibit negative behavior when we get stressed. It will then run automatic "programs" fromthe person seems to disappear behind a mask. And as soon as one has put on his mask, the next one quickly follows.

The negative behaviour of one person virtually challenges the negative behaviour of the other. And soon a constructive exchange is no longer conceivable. The good thing is that these negative... Predictable behaviour patterns are. Reliably predictable! And that there are warning signs before someone puts their mask on. The better you can detect these warning signals - both from you and from others - the greater your chances are, to counteract the descent into the stress cellar.

So back to the beginning again

Let's look at the meeting scenario again from the beginning. What kind of warning signals were sent here (and overlooked or ignored)?

From the very beginning, Mr L. had obviously been under the gun. He used complicated wordsand explained everything down to the smallest detail. Someone who would have said "Great overview of the relevant points! Thanks for that. What is your conclusion in one sentence?" would probably have managed to Stop the flow of speech and get an accurate conclusion.

Because colleague L. would have been able to use his "favorite language" in this way Confirmation for his good performance, which led to a Relaxation would have led. Instead, however, our colleague B., who was also no longer stress-free and clearly showed her warning signs, got involved. She answered complicated questions and critical follow-up to the fact that Mr. L. is always being Stress caught.

A brief presentation of her own opinion by a moderator or other meeting participants, as well as asking how her colleague B. sees it, would probably have helped her to get out of her stress behaviour. Because she wishes Recognition for their opinion and I want it to be heard.

At the latest when colleague M. took the floor, it became clearly visible that Constructional level long since left behind was. He makes it perfectly clear that he's had enough of the "talk". A "Okay, suggest what to do first!" might have gotten him back on board. A short request for action would have been his need for action and picked up his "favorite language." It would have been an invitation to come out of his Stress behaviour to get out. But so he left the meeting angry.

You see, there would have been many places where you could have intervened in a stressful way. And in addition to this, to actively involve the other, rather uninvolved participants of the meeting in the process. An appropriately trained moderator or appropriate awareness and action among the participants could have worked wonders here.

Briefly summarised

The above discussion example is only one of many. To describe all variants and factors in a short article is impossible. However I think, this example is sufficient to show underlying principle for achieving stress-free handling to make up with others:

1st measure

Increase your own stress resistance. For this it is important that you know what is good for you and what you can gain energy from. And that you do this regularly. In this way, you ensure that your energy stores (your "batteries") are always well filled and that you can tap into them in stressful situations.

2nd measure

Recognize the stress warning signals (for you and others). The more you know about your behavior under stress, the easier it is for you to recognize the first signs of it and to take timely countermeasures. The more confident you are in identifying them, the easier it is for you to react to them in a "de-stressing" way.

3rd measure

Identify the real need behind negative behaviour and react accordingly. This is then already the high art of stress-free communication. To be able to invite others to get out of their negative stress behaviour, you must not (yet) be caught up in your own pattern. And to achieve this, we are back to the first measure: Make sure that your "batteries" are full. Because only then you have enough buffer to stay calm when others dive into their stress.


With the 3 measures you have a good chance to prevent the following Negative chain is starting:
Your batteries are dead. –> You can only communicate in your "mother tongue", which may not be spoken by others. –> The first stress warning signals with you and/or the others appear, but are not recognized or ignored. –> Negative stress behaviour is emerging. –> Mutual rocking –> Communication fails, goals are not achieved.

Instead, you take care of the following Positive chain:
Your "batteries" are full. –> You make flexible use of different "languages". –> You react to possible warning signals in time and appropriately. –> Communication is stress-free and positive. –> Your message gets through to your counterpart, goals are achieved.

Process Communication Model®

But how are you supposed to know when to talk to whom and how? What warning signs are there? Which needs play a role? The Process Communication Model®. can provide valuable support here. Behavioural observations can be used to draw conclusions about the "Black box human" are drawn, which in turn lead to an adjustment of the own (communication) behaviour. Which ultimately ensures that your counterpart can really understand the message you want to convey to him. Because you "speak his language"!

This article is a guest contribution from Barbara Wanning.


Why do some conversations "slip"? Why do ideas flow there, can agreements be made very easily? And why do I feel completely exhausted after other encounters and have the feeling that the other person has not understood what I wanted to say to him at all? Why does the whole thing end in the worst case in an unproductive argument? These questions have always occupied me. I wanted to know more about them. Wanted to learn how to manage to have conversations that stay on a positive level and allow for a constructive outcome.

In various (communication) psychological trainings I have learned a lot about the connections in human interaction, which I am now happy to pass on to my clients. I was particularly enthusiastic about the Process Communication Model®, which I mainly use in my communication training. PCM has lifted the relationship with my husband, friends and all my business contacts to a completely different level! You too can discover the world of stress-free communication. For messages that arrive! I will gladly accompany you.