Beware: Stress is Contagious

Did you know that stress is contagious?

Think about it. We’ve all been in the presence of someone who is highly stressed, only to start feeling anxious ourselves.

In fact, neuroscience research is revealing the social nature of stress. We now know that when your audience sees you under stress, it activates their stress hormones. This is why speakers need to concern themselves with their own emotional states, before and during their speeches.

A stressed-out speaker will trigger one of three reactions in an audience:


Under these conditions, it's difficult, if not impossible to gain buy-in for ideas:

Fight: An audience that is experiencing your stress may feel afraid, angry or defensive.

Flight: Your stress may cause your audience to disengage, check-out, check their phones, or if possible, leave the room.

Freeze: Concentration suffers in the face of stress. Your audience may feel confused or overwhelmed. Your stress could impair their ability to listen.

What's the solution?

Manage your mindset BEFORE you speak.

Just as you wouldn’t go into the office with the flu, don’t address a group with a dark cloud over your head. In both situations, think of yourself as contagious!

Sounds obvious, but it's not easy to do. Here’s a few tips to help you get in a good place prior to speaking:

Stay positive. I like the phrase “Everything is figure-out-able.” Remember that if you don’t believe that success is possible, neither will your audience.

Keep things in perspective. Slow down and reflect before you respond.

Take the high road. Don’t fixate on blame. Empower your audience to do better going forward.

Use up excess adrenaline. If your stress is causing a fight or flight feeling in you, a little exercise will help a lot.

In the end, if you are stressed-out and can’t get that under control, buy some time if you can. It’s better to wait on addressing an audience than it is to “infect” the room with your stress.

You are more powerful when you show up calm, confident and centered.

You’ve Got This!


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