Taking the Stress Out of Stressful Conversations

by Holly Weeks

WE LIVE BY TALKING. That’s just the kind of animal we are. We chatter and tattle and gossip and jest. But sometimes—more often than we’d like—we have stressful conversations, those sensitive exchanges that can hurt or haunt us in ways no other kind of talking does. Stressful conversations are unavoidable in life, and in business they can run the gamut from firing a subordinate to, curiously enough, receiving praise. But whatever the context, stressful conversations differ from other conversations because of the emotional loads they carry. These conversations call up embarrassment, confusion, anxiety, anger, pain, or fear—if not in us, then in our counterparts. Indeed, stressful conversations ...

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