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Stay calm under fire

Maintain poise to perform well

by on
in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

You may work smart, but all your brilliance won’t matter if people perceive you as explosive.

No one likes to deliver bad news to a hothead or fight a high-stress battle with a jittery tyrant.

One of the most common characteristics of CEOs is their unflappable demeanor. They do not buckle under pressure. Rather, they give the impression that they are strong and sturdy when put to the test.

Here are ways to keep your cool when it counts the most:

Detach experience from behavior. Don’t be a slave to your emotions. When you’re tempted to lose your temper, separate what you’re experiencing from how you act. Say to yourself, “I recognize this feeling as an unwelcome adrenaline rush. It’s caused by my irritation at all the delays on this project. I expect I’ll feel more agitated for the next 10 minutes, and then it’ll go away.”

Meanwhile, show the outside world that you’re in control. Your behavior can reinforce your steadiness under fire, thanks to your ability to diagnose your “emotional flooding” and not let it control how you react.

Identify options. Mentally list your options when faced with a stressful situation, and then pick the one you think will work best. That beats impulsively blowing up.

For instance, if you’re confronting multiple emergencies all at once, say to yourself, “I can explode in fury and do nothing, angrily chastise my staff for screwing up or devise an action plan and get started.”

By taking this self-imposed “test,” you force yourself to behave rationally. If you have a chance, you may even want to write down your options and review them in private.

Visualize a performance. Pretend that you’re an actor playing the part of a “Captain Courageous” leader. This role requires that you display intestinal fortitude in the face of adversity. You’re the hero, and that means you must act like one.

By imagining that you’re basing your behavior on a script that presents you in the most positive light, you can sweep away your agitation and showcase your strong, resilient side. What at first may seem fake will soon become familiar, as you incorporate your “performance” into everyday life.

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