Stress & Self-Esteem


stress-self-esteemYou know how it is… some days you bring your A-game and everything is smooth sailing. The next, nothing seems to come out quite right and people are constantly getting on your nerves. The truth is – it’s mostly in your head – literally. Our mental state has a lot to do with how effectively we communicate; both in how messages are sent and in how they are received. These ‘psychological barriers’ usually come in the form of stress, anger, or low self-esteem.

The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. – William James

We’ll deal with anger next week… for now, let’s take a look at stress and self-esteem and how they can derail our communication efforts.

STRESS is a part of everyone’s daily life. Whether you’re overwhelmed at work or at home, have too many decisions to make, or are stuck in a traffic jam with somewhere you need to be. Stress comes from demands placed on our physical or mental energy that are outside of our range of easy management.

It’s no wonder that we communicate differently when we are stressed… headaches, indigestion, insomnia, tiredness and twitching eyes can do that to a person. Maybe the right words don’t seem to come to mind easily, your voice sounds thin, or words that aren’t usually a part of your vocabulary seem to come out of nowhere.

According to Dr. Harry Barry, this happens because our emotional brain is reacting ahead of our logical brain. The trick is to strengthen the logical brain to take over even under high stress. You can find his video on how to do that here. Breathing exercises have also been proven to do wonders for managing stress and you can find some tips on that here.

Sometimes when people are under stress, they hate to think, and it’s the time when they most need to think. – William J. Clinton

SELF-ESTEEM may not seem like an obvious barrier to effective communication. However, people with low self-esteem are generally less assertive and often feel uncomfortable communicating how they feel. They typically avoid any type of conflict. Additionally, they often hear negative implications in other people’s words that really aren’t there and magnify any negative comments.

Being assertive is a core communication skill. It simply means that you are able to express yourself and your opinions effectively, while respecting the values and opinions of others. While some people have no problem being assertive, there are many who struggle with this – especially in terms of being able to say “no” when approached with taking on one more obligation or responsibility.

If you are struggling to deal with someone on your team that suffers from low self-esteem, you may need to change your approach. Realize that they aren’t telling you how they feel and they may be harboring a great deal of resentment underneath their passive attitude.  When possible, play to their strengths. Give them assignments in areas in which they excel. Have them shadow you in areas in which they need improvement and ask them to help you in their area of expertise. Avoid negative comments.

In reality, being assertive boosts self-esteem, earns respect from our peers, and reduces both stress and anger – qualities that all of us can benefit from. The trick is not to confuse assertiveness with aggressiveness. Assertiveness is direct but always respectful. If you need to work on improving your self-esteem or being more assertive, check out some of the helpful sites available on the web including this one and this one.

As always, if we can help you communicate your message more effectively with each other or with your audience, we’d love to help. Have a tip we didn’t mention? We’d love to see it in the comments!

Marie Mallory, Communication / PR Specialist, Irons Media Group


Special thanks to the Mayo Clinic and Trinity College Dublin for their assistance!




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