You Can Manage Stress by Communicating Clearly

Learn positive ways to express your feelings. Stress often causes us to behave in ways that hurt others, so expressing ourselves appropriately is key to handling difficult situations and people.  Our research indicates that only about 7% of first responders “Always” express themselves carefully and appropriately, while another 36% say they “Often” do.

First responders tend to be more assertive in their communication, and when expressed poorly, assertiveness can be mistaken for aggressiveness.  This only throws up barriers to good communication.  Direct, assertive expression makes for clear communication and can help boost your self-esteem and decision-making.  Being assertive means expressing your thoughts, feelings, and needs in an open and honest way, while standing up for yourself and respecting others.  It does not mean being hostile, aggressive, or demanding. 

Effective communication is always about understanding the other person, not about winning an argument or forcing your opinions on others.  While your opinions are as important as anyone else’s, be careful so that you are expressing yourself without seeming to infringe on the rights of others.  If you have negative thoughts, try to express them in a positive way.  It’s okay to be angry, but you should attempt to be respectful as well.  Here are some important strategies to guide you:

  • Talking things out with others opens avenues for better communication.  It’s okay to speak up for yourself.  You, like anyone else, have a right to be heard, express your point of view, and expect others to listen to what you have to say.  However, those rights also carry the responsibility to be respectful in the way you communicate.  If you lose your temper, you lose your self-control, and also your credibility.
  • Open lines of communication help to minimize confusion.  You may misunderstand what someone else has said, and that causes you to become stressed.  Remember, just like you want to be heard and understood, make sure you are giving other people the same benefit by listening, and communicating openly and respectfully with them.
  • When you want to be understood, gentle words will be most effective.  Sounding threatening accomplishes very little and solves nothing.  In fact, it will often leave you feeling embarrassed and defeated.  When you are involved in a dispute, you have the capability of incorporating words into your vocabulary that convey kindness and gentleness, and communicating in that way increases the likelihood of coming to an agreement.

Self-Reflection Questions:

  1. How can I use my words to combat stress?
  2. What has stopped me from talking things out with others in the past?
  3. What qualities do I have that make me a good communicator?

If you’d like to speak to one of our peer support specialists about how to manage the stress of work or life in general, feel free to reach out to us at and someone will be happy to chat with you.  If you are in crisis, please text the keyword BADGE to the National Crisis Text Line where you can be connected to a trained crisis counselor, 24/7/365.  Always free.  Always confidential.

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