Human radar senses a lot.  We’re all pretty good at sensing when someone is putting on a front, or is hiding something, or is not connected, or is reticent.  When you sense someone is like this, it’s probably because they are under stress.  We’re less like ourselves when we’re under stress.  Even minor stresses can take us out of our normal, intended self.

Remedies when it’s your stress:

Center in on yourself.  Figure out what may be causing your stress.  Take a moment (and deep breath) to get centered.  Use this moment to think about what you really mean, what you really want to get across, what you are trying to accomplish. Now interact from that place.

Reflect on situations that cause you stress — figure out the frequent stressors and develop ideas for how you can avoid/lessen your own stress.  Example:  “Meeting a new client for the first time can really get me tense.  I worry about what they’ll think of me; how I don’t want to make a bad first impression; how I want to come across as a knowledgeable professional; how important this account will be for me/my organization; how much I need this deal to make my numbers; etc.”  Now think about all the times you’ve met new clients and how it worked out well — good business, good relationship.  Use this knowledge to reframe meeting new clients, “I’ve done this before and done it well.  I can count on myself to handle this situation.  I’m confident I’ll know what to do and say as things unfold.”  Repeat this reframe to yourself before the stressful situation (e.g., as you’re walking in the door).  Do this every time until it’s no longer a stressful situation.

Remedies when you sense the other person is stressed:

Acknowledge Meaningfulness — The idea here is to find an authentic plus to something another person has said or done, and to state it clearly and specifically.  The benefit is that feeling meaningful can help the other person relax, which makes things easier for both of us.  Always make sure you are sincere — Find authentic things to credit — “What you just said led me to think of…”; “When I saw that I wanted to ask you…”;  “Oh that’s interesting, say more…”; “Tell me more about how you’re thinking…”; “I am struck by your …”, “I am hoping you can tell me more about…” etc.  Avoid overdoing it; use your judgment. You are crediting the other person while at the same time drawing him out.  As long as you are authentic and sincere, it’s hard to go wrong helping someone feel good about themselves.

Get them talking about themselves — their involvement in something that’s important to them; the importance of something that’s positive for them (i.e., something not stress related).  You want to be thoughtful here — when we start asking a lot of questions about someone, we may cause them to feel defensive (“Why is she asking me all this?).  Use your judgment.

Back off and let them lead the conversation.  This can be difficult when we are intent on what we want to accomplish/say/include.  It is compounded for us when we listen while at the same time keep thinking about our point/point of view (making mental lists of things you want to say/point out, etc.).  As you know, this may cause stress for them because they’ll sense your preoccupation.  As a result, they’ll feel more stress and will say less.  And you’ll sense their increased stress; you will hear less; and maybe you will feel even more urgent to get to your message.  Quite a circle of babble.

Be cool here, and know that if you listen fully, you’ll remember your message/point for sure when the time is appropriate.  (By the way:  Do you ever take notes before a meeting to insure you’re clear on what you want to accomplish or discuss and your desired outcome?)

Letting others lead the conversation is a very effective way to reduce their stress.  Now they don’t have to be stressed/preoccupied with their own list of what they want to accomplish.  (Also, at the start of a conversion, you might state what you want to accomplish, and ask the other person what they want to accomplish.  This gives each of you room to achieve your plan.)

BOTTOM LINE:

Reframe your own stressors.
Stay centered.
Know what you want to accomplish.
Acknowledge another’s meaningfulness.
Let the other person take the lead.
Another’s stress may not be related to you.