What’s Your Style Under Stress?

Stressed? Who, me? Never

When stakes are high, emotions run strong, and opinions differ, we all struggle to stay cool. We often either clam up and hope the conflict will go away, or we blow up and damage trust and respect. Take the assessment and find out how well you communicate when it matters most.



Identify a Relationship

Before you begin, think of a relationship you want to explore—with your boss, coworker, direct report, partner, or family member.

Identify a Circumstance

Next, think of a tough disagreement you've had or continue to have—one where you feel frustrated or irritated or that doesn't get resolved to your satisfaction.


With the relationship and disagreement in mind, respond to the following statements.

  1. Rather than tell people exactly what I think, sometimes I rely on jokes, sarcasm, or snide remarks to let them know I'm frustrated.
  2. When I've got something tough to bring up, I understate it rather than share my full opinion.
  3. Sometimes when people bring up a touchy issue, I try to change the subject.
  4. When it comes to dealing with difficult subjects, sometimes I steer the conversation to safer issues rather than address what really concerns me.
  5. At times I avoid situations that might bring me into contact with people I'm having problems with.
  6. I put off getting back to people sometimes because I'm uncomfortable dealing with them.
  7. In order to get my point across, I sometimes exaggerate my side of the argument.
  8. If I seem to be losing control of a conversation, I sometimes cut people off or change the subject to something that works better for me.
  9. I suspect others walk away from conversations with me at times feeling belittled or hurt.
  10. When I'm stunned by a comment, sometimes I say things that others might take as forceful or attacking—comments such as "Give me a break!" or "That's ridiculous!"
  11. Sometimes when things get heated, I move from arguing against others' points to saying things that might hurt them personally.
  12. When I feel threatened or hurt I sometimes behave in ways that appear spiteful or vengeful.
  13. I sometimes find myself having the same conversation with the same person multiple times.
  14. At times I walk away from conversations with an agreement that I don't think really solves the problem.
  15. When I'm discussing an important topic with others, sometimes I move from trying to make my point to trying to win the battle.
  16. Sometimes I decide that it's better to keep the peace than share my views.
  17. When talking about sensitive subjects, my emotions often get the best of me.
  18. I sometimes walk away from conversations rehashing the reasons I'm right and others are wrong.
  19. In the middle of a tough conversation, I often get so caught up in arguments that I don't see how I'm coming across to others.
  20. When conversations start to deteriorate, I find it hard to figure out what's going wrong and get it back on track.
  21. When I finally say what I really think, I tend to do so in a way that makes others feel defensive.
  22. I often struggle to decide whether it's more important to say what I think or preserve the relationship.
  23. Sometimes when I feel strongly about something, I say it in a way that others tend to resist.
  24. When I am very confident of my opinion, I don't like it when others push back.
  25. I'm often unsure of how to help others open up about things they are reluctant to share.
  26. I spend more of my energy thinking about how to get my point across than worrying about how to help others express theirs.
  27. I spend lots of time feeling very anxious when I'm facing a conversation where I think I might get tough feedback.
  28. I can feel hurt and angry for a long time after a conversation where others said hurtful things to me.
  29. I often have problems with people failing to do what we agreed to, and then the burden is on me to bring it up again.
  30. When resolving tough things, we sometimes have clashing expectations about how the decision will be made, or even about what we agreed to when we talked.