Preaching Under Pressure: Why We Do It & 3 Better Ways To Manage Stress


Ken je die vergaderingen waar je het gevoel hebt dat je alleen maar luistert?

You’d love to get a word in edgewise, but there’s one colleague who just…won’t stop?

Maybe their monologue is about “the only way to do something right…” Or a never-ending speech about what will happen “…if we don’t use this exact software…”

Iemand, die elk ander idee lijkt te negeren alsof het niet bestaat en alleen maar vasthoudender in zijn gepassioneerde preek wordt bij iedere poging van anderen om hun gedachten te delen.   

Wat gebeurt er hier?

Velen van ons vervallen in ‘preken’ onder druk. Het is een verdedigingsmechanisme waarvan we ons vaak niet realiseren dat we het gebruiken, maar dat wel een constructieve teamdynamiek kan ondermijnen. 

In dit artikel ontrafel ik de oorzaak van deze stressreactie en de impact hiervan. Benieuwd hoe je deze destructieve dynamiek kunt doorbreken en jezelf of anderen kunt managen? Lees dan verder voor enkele praktische tips!

Spotting “The Preacher”

First up, what does preaching look like?

The truth is, a preacher is easy to spot!  

You’ve (probably) been on the receiving end of someone’s long-winded speech or diatribe— when a two-way or group discussion becomes a one-person show, and nobody else’s input seems to matter anymore. 

The speaker is determined to soldier on, talking insistently over others, even if it means all teamwork goes out the window.

Preaching isn’t just a conversation hijack, either. It also involves a certain kind of language: self-righteous, superior, or even dismissive of other people’s viewpoints. 

For example:

  • “The only logical way is…”
  • “This is exactly what needs to happen…” 
  • “You should…” 
  • “You must…”, or 
  • “You just don’t understand what I’m trying to say…”

Although we all get passionate sometimes, terms like these are used frequently during a preacher’s ‘sermon.’ This combination of directive language, inflexibility, and unwillingness to be influenced by others is what makes this stress response so potentially damaging to collaboration.

Why Does It Happen?

Like egoism, getting sweaty, and other stress responses,  preaching is triggered by our “fight-or-flight” response to stress. 

It can kick in when we feel emotionally or physically triggered, for instance, by the thought that we’ll lose our team’s support or the prospect of uncertainty and change. 

This behavioral defense mechanism is one way our brains attempt to mitigate stress by seizing control. Rather than overtly picking fights, we dominate the conversation, weaponizing words and turning it into a verbal tug-of-war. 

This tendency can easily be managed, but unfortunately, most people don’t realize they’re doing it. 

With the Preaching Stress! Coaching Card I created—plus these three tips below—you’ll be able to raise awareness of this stress reaction and help yourself or others overcome it.

3 Tips To Stop The Monologue

Here are three practical ways to deal with preaching behavior and restore more balance and collective intelligence to your conversations!

1. Use Collaborative Language

One reason preaching is particularly disruptive is the language the speaker uses. Because words can either foster understanding or widen gaps, one strategy is encouraging inclusive language.

If you’re a manager trying to deal with preaching in your team, one effective strategy is to promote inclusive, collaborative language. Identify particular phrases of the preacher and encourage your co-workers to substitute them where possible; for example:

  • “You should…” → “We might consider…”
  • “You must…” → “What if we tried…”
  • “You can’t…” → “How about…”

Switching commands to suggestions encourages dialogue over monologue and mutual problem-solving over rail-roading, all while diffusing tension. Suggestions are also more likely to garner support and understanding than commands, which helps combat the Domino Effect of stress in teams!

(Tip: If you’re the preacher, try to think of conversations like a dance. ) If you sense the onset of ‘preaching,’ take a step back, breathe, and steer your language towards a more collaborative rhythm. Remember, you want to view your audience as valued partners, not as targets of your sermon!

2. Step In and Facilitate

We sometimes preach because we feel we need to be heard—maybe we’re worried our opinions will be overlooked, or we want to be recognized as valuable.

One tactical approach to counter this tendency is switching to a “facilitator” role. When you feel the urge to preach, it’s time to focus on how you might encourage a more balanced conversation. 

You can do this by turning statements into questions and inviting others’ participation to promote a more inclusive, less stressful conversational dynamic. 

  • This is the best way…” would become “I wonder how everyone feels about this process?”
  • “It’s a bad idea to…” would turn into “How else might we do it?”
  • “There’s no alternative…” could be phrased as “Would you like to share your potential solutions?”

3. Find a Pressure Outlet

Another reason we preach this way is that self-expression is often a great way to release pressure. What if you (or your colleague) were to find another, healthier way to vent or let out their thoughts?

Here are potential alternatives for the next time the urge to preach creeps in: 

  • Write in a journal or record your thoughts so that you can express your thoughts freely
  • Carve out a time in your schedule to share your views with a trusted friend, relative, or mentor. 
  • Talk to a therapist or counselor!

Not preaching means finding ways to express your thoughts constructively, rather than suppress them. With a helpful “pressure outlet” up your sleeve, you can avoid reaching the point where you launch automatically into this reaction.

Nicolien Dellensen

Nicolien Dellensen, Senior Consultant and behavioral specialist and creator and owner of the ’Sphere of Influence 360º’ a comprehensive concept and (360) online tool about interactive dynamics.

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