Three Approaches to Prepare for Communicating Under Pressure 


All families seek cohesion and harmony, hoping to avoid conflict and discord. However, friction and tension are part and parcel of all family dynamics.  

Engaging in difficult conversations is an inherent aspect of most family interactions. Some families may avoid difficult conversations all together. By doing so, they potentially deprive family members from accessing a variety of perspectives and ideas that can help gain a better understanding of the issue at stake.  

When we add the dimension of stress or pressure on individuals, difficult conversations can turn into conflicts. By managing friction and tension effectively, families can harness the potential of challenging dialogues rather than letting them escalate into conflict or crisis. 

Communication under pressure is a complex challenge that requires the cultivation of skills before, during, and after the inevitable difficult conversations that arise. Thus, learning approaches for enhancing resilience to pressure is an indispensable precursory tool for enterprising family members to prepare for challenging dialogues, align conversations with intentions, and preserve relationships to ultimately help steer the family closer to achieving their common goals. 

The Tightrope of Pressure and Perceived Control 

We naturally feel off-balance and try to regain control when we experience pressure. Depending on individual predispositions, some may tend to confront to regain control, while others will avoid the issues to preserve the illusion of harmony.  

Either way, this pressure inevitably finds an outlet, whether through processing or accumulating until an eventual breaking point is reached. The result is a recurring conversational pattern that can be challenging to break.  

How Can Enterprising Family Members Prepare for Productive Conversations Under Pressure? 

In anticipation of difficult conversations, enterprising family members can proactively practice approaches in a relaxed state or their ‘comfort zone,’ gradually increasing their proficiency for applying these techniques under pressure.  

1: Acknowledge the ‘Hats’ You Wear 

The complexity of family dynamics is often amplified by the multiple roles (hats) and relationship layers inherent to the enterprising family. With this in mind, begin by identifying the perspective in which you enter the conversation.  

Remember that your roles within the family eco-system can impact your posture and the way others will receive your message. Then, acknowledge the level of pressure or potential tension that your presence can bring to the conversation. Doing so can aid with compartmentalizing conversations related to your different roles to prevent pressure from spilling over between them. 

2: Practice Self-Awareness 

Self-awareness is crucial for you to be purposeful and mindful in how you respond to pressure. After all, it takes two to tango – but in this case, you wish it was only two people dancing. Are you aware of your effect on the tempo and momentum of your family interactions?  Each of us brings our own unique predispositions that influence our responses under pressure. Developing the ability to identify when we feel pressured and reflect inward to acknowledge our personal impact on the family dynamic can help avoid impulsive reactions. Rather than adopting a defensive response, we can acknowledge the pressure; understand that our behaviour is triggered by our need to regain control; and realize that others are not attacking – but rather, trying to protect something.   

3: Approach Difficult Conversations with Intention 

In family situations, conversations are often driven by intuition rather than deliberate planning. The spontaneity continues as we become caught up in reacting to our conversation counterpart’s responses rather than acting intentionally. To begin to approach family conversations with intention, consider three fundamental questions: 

  1. What do I want to accomplish for myself? 
  2. What do I want to accomplish for other(s)?
  3. What do I want to accomplish for our relationship?  

The Approaches in Action 

Exploring these approaches to enhance resilience to pressure ahead of challenging dialogues can establish a foundation for growing one’s toolkit for communicating under pressure. When complemented by the development of skills for communicating during and after these encounters, it can foster a more empathetic and mutually productive discourse that can be the difference between spiralling into conflict or recognizing when it’s appropriate to pause the conversation, remember your shared history, and understand that resolution may not happen immediately.