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Can you learn to stay calm? 5 tricks

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in Leaders & Managers

Everybody craves the stable leader, the steady hand, the reassuring voice. People view calm individuals as less neurotic than jumpy ones, which is a function of genetics.

But you can cultivate an even temperament. You’re either calm or you can learn how to be calm.

“Genetically identical people can give very different outward impressions because they think differently, they regulate their emotions differently,” says James J. Gross, a psychology professor at Stanford.

Between the “a” of the antecedent and the “c” of the consequence is “b” for belief. You can believe that the world is stacked against you or that you can regulate your reactions.

Gross offers five tactics:

1. Avoid the situation. Steer clear of the trigger.

2. Modify the situation. Change your routine or environment so that the bad set of circumstances rarely or never presents itself.

3. Redeploy your attention. When you’re forced to operate in the triggering environment, distract yourself.

4. Go for cognitive change.
Dismiss the triggering person or situation as unimportant or no longer relevant.

5. Repress it.
Focus on controlling your behavior, such as keeping your face still, not blinking, unclenching your teeth or fists and not twitching or pumping your leg.

George Washington cussed a blue streak as a young man but controlled his temper through force of will, turning his worst fault into his greatest strength. On the other hand, FDR remained a cool customer.

They were both great leaders.

— Adapted from “Never Let Them See You Sweat,” Kate Zernike, The New York Times.

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