Communicating Under Pressure

By Brent Gleeson

Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know.” – Jim Rohn

Communicating under pressure is a critical leadership component learned very early on during Navy SEAL training. Without having the ability to maintain composure, think clearly, gather information and make a call, you can’t succeed in combat. Which of course can lead to the worst possible outcome.

The same applies in business leadership situations, without death and dismemberment of course. We all know what it’s like to have the perfect response pop into our heads after an important situation or verbal exchange, too late to be of any use. And then there are those who can face all kinds of conflict and seem to know exactly what to do and say. And they do so in a calm and tactful manner. Faced with an angry customer, an uncooperative co-worker or tense negotiation, they don’t stammer or get upset. They keep their cool and glide through the situation getting what they want without breaking a sweat. These are the people who typically rise rapidly through the ranks. But great communicators are made, not born. It’s simply about having the right tools and knowledge.

Thinking on Your Feet and Communicating Effectively

Performing well under pressure builds trust within the team and makes others confident in your ability to not only lead the team but also support the team in stressful times. Here five benefits of thinking on your feet:

  1. Credibility: Others will believe what you have to say. Your associates will believe in you when you earn their respect. You do that be being credible, especially under fire.
  2. Professionalism: Being able to think on your feet means that you can respond, in some capacity, to all questions. You don’t always have to have the perfect answers, but rather ownership over finding solutions.
  3. Reliability: Others will find you dependable. When you are effective in critical situations others will look to you for leadership.
  4. Relationships: You will increase positive rapport with others.
  5. Confidence: Others will see you as more sure of yourself.

The more we focus on communicating well under pressure the better we will be at it. So let’s take a look at how to identify snags and improve leadership communication.

Eliminating Your Communication Hang-ups

Everyone has trouble communicating ideas at some point. Awareness of your communication hang-ups and how you react in various types of conversations and communications can help you develop solutions for improvement. Here are four common hang-ups:

  1. Controlling Emotions: This is a big one for most people. When we lack the ability to control our emotions we appear less confident. That weakens our ability to clearly get our point across and makes others less likely to be receptive to what we are saying.
  2. Prejudice: When we go into a conversation without an open mind nobody will benefit. When we take time to clear our minds and tell ourselves we will put our prejudices aside we will have a better foundation from which to have more productive communication.
  3. Fear: There are plenty of times we fear the conversation that needs to be had. Most people don’t enjoy conflict and therefore prefer to put those tough conversations off or sugarcoat what they are trying to say. Don’t put off the tough conversations. Remain calm, be candid and take it one step at a time.
  4. Body Language: Communication is about 7% the words we say. The rest is tone and body language. Be aware of these things and control them when possible.

Communication problems begin when you don’t keep an open mind to what others have to say and refuse to compromise. When you don’t strive to achieve a collaborative solution everybody loses. Remember to remain objective, actively listen, ask good questions, and concentrate on creating common ground.

This article was originally posted on Forbes.

Contact us at to equip your leaders to be calm and effective no matter what. Business Results Group is the exclusive licensed provider of  Think On Your Feet® across Sub Saharan Africa. 


3 Steps to Clear Communication

By Roger HB Davies

How many times have you been asked a question that causes ‘brain fog’ even if you know the answer? Maybe your audience is intimidating. Perhaps the topic is sensitive or emotional. Suddenly, you find yourself stammering or rambling. And after the damage is done you remember what you should have said. Many of us believe that a select few are born with the ability to skillfully handle impromptu situations. The reality is that there are three practical tips anyone can apply to respond effectively when caught off guard…


Step 1: Listen to understand your audience before you react

In today’s fast-paced world, we feel the need to think and speak quickly. When we hear a question, we often begin to reply before the other person stops talking. 

There are times when you can quickly make your point and move on and everybody is happy. And there are also times when listening carefully and asking for clarity is essential to finding the right answer. For example, you are talking to your team about implementing a new process and you hear “Why is this company always making things more complicated”. A good listener will acknowledge that change can be challenging. If spoken with sincerity it will help move the conversation in the right direction. Then, ask them for an example of what they mean. Chances are this will help defuse the situation and lead you to their real concern.


Step 2: Identify triggers to know how to respond

Let’s say the reaction to your query above is “I am already busy enough, I don’t have time to deal with this”. You could launch into a defensive and emotional brain dump. Or, you could identify the triggers in their language and react effectively.

The trigger in this situation is “I”; they are only focused on how the change is impacting them. Their perspective is narrow, so to get them on board you start broadening their perspective. Shift the focus from their individual problem to the broader solutions being offered to support the initiative, and the big picture impact the new process will provide for everyone. If your argument is credible you will find your audience slowly but surely moving to a new and more productive perspective.


Step 3: Remember the rule of threes to stay on track

One of the biggest challenges most of us face is knowing when to stop talking, especially when put on the spot.

When we are subject matter experts we get wrapped up in too much detail. If we are passionate our emotions override our logic and we ramble. If you need to say more than a couple of words to make your point, try focusing on the rule of threes to keep you on track. Give the quick answer and support it with no more than three points. For example, an executive stops you in the hall and asks what’s new and exciting in your department. You could say “we’re keeping busy” and hope they don’t ask more questions. Or you could launch into a detailed description about all your great ideas and risk boring your audience. Your best option is to say that you are working on some exciting ideas and then briefly share the top three. Move from one key point to the next and you will sound organised and confident. It’s not the only way to communicate but experts know it is one of the most memorable ways to deliver a message. Remember Goldilocks and those Three Bears?

Practicing these tips will make brain fog disappear, whether dealing with off the cuff questions on your feet or on your seat.


Originally published on

About the Author: Roger HB Davies CEO, Think on Your Feet International, Inc. Roger established his reputation in the early ’70s as one of Canada’s top business magazine editors. His awards include the prestigious Jesse H. Neal, the Pulitzer of the American Business Press, which he won a record three times. As CEO, he is responsible for long-term planning, product innovation, and marketing. Davies has served as President of the Ontario Society of Training & Development, Canada’s largest professional training association.


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