Communicating in Times of Stress

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How Stress Can Impact Effective Communication

It can be difficult to effectively communicate with others in times of stress. As you may have read in How Stress Affects Brain and Body, your ability to organize your thoughts and feelings into a clear message and to listen carefully is impacted by your body’s physical reaction to stress. You may find yourself avoiding or withdrawing from conversations with your family, friends, and your ag service providers. However, openly discussing and airing problems, concerns, fears and frustrations can be constructive and healthy. This is especially true if we can move from the mode of being “cranky” to actively addressing the problem


man and woman communicating in farm field

Photo by StockMediaSeller/Shutterstock

Importance of Good Communication

Families and farm couples who handle stress well communicate freely. Communication where people work together to solve problems or to plan for the future is an important way of regaining a positive sense of control. The process of admitting to worries and fears is sometimes difficult, but when all parties have open and clear access to information and can assist each other in finding solutions, problems become easier to solve.

Principles for Communicating Effectively

Whether you are communicating with your family, your ag service providers or your farmer-clients, keep these in mind:

  • Have patience as you talk with others.
    • Focus on the issue at hand
    • Avoid personal attacks
    • Show respect by truly listening to others’ point of view
    • Recognize that others may be speaking with emotions behind the words, but you may also be listening with an emotional filter and not hear the true intent of their words
  • Help others tap into and fully use the social support systems they have around them. This could include Extension, technical college staff, churches, schools, trusted and experienced advisors. Involve people with appropriate expertise when considering issues of finance, production, and other technical specialties. Do not overlook the roles of health professionals including mental health.
  • Keep your sense of humor. Laughter can change our perception of an adverse situation and relieves us from the cycles of stress. It’s easier to laugh and regain perspective when we’re around other people, which is a reason to continue to gather at places like coffee shops, restaurants, sporting events and churches during difficult times, even if at first you don’t feel like being social.
  • It’s important to remember that children will sense the tension that you are feeling and may feel less secure. Keeping the lines of communication open during times like these can help everyone feel more connected. Family communication can also help older children and parents find ways to work together on managing the family finances.


  • Donham, K. J., & Thelin, A. (2016). Agricultural Medicine: Rural Occupational and Environmental Health, Safety, and Prevention. (2nd ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.