We’ve all been there. You are in a key meeting with someone and the interaction takes a negative turn. You feel tense. You feel judged. Your emotions are bubbling to the surface. You’re afraid you might lash out or retreat and lose your ground. You don’t want to misplace your presence but you can’t ignore that freight train pounding down the tracks in your head.
Welcome to the fight-flight-flee response. This is your body’s way of gearing up to protect itself from threat. It was helpful when humans needed to guard against mastodons or enemy tribes but not in the executive team room.
If you need to end an escalating conversation that is becoming confrontational here are eight tips to help you regain your executive presence
- Gently say to the person, “This conversation is upsetting (concerning, important etc.). I’m sure it is for you as well. I need to think about what you’re saying. I will get back to you on this in (timeframe.)”
- Then remove yourself. If possible, go to the restroom, your office, or a quiet space without distractions. Give yourself at least 10 minutes to name what you are feeling, separate the truth from assumptions and compose yourself.
- Make someone laugh. (Even yourself.)
- Take a walk outdoors.
- Make a run to the store or coffee shop.
- Do something mindfully creative such as sketch, creative lettering, or take a photograph.
- When your head is clear, strike a power pose with your arms in the air and feet spread apart right before you meet with the other party. In their presence make a steeple with both hands to show a subliminal sign of power. Open with, “It sounds to me like we both want ________. “ Get them nodding.
It is important in a heated moment to call out that you are noticing the discomfort of the situation. This gives you control, creates space to deal with the negative feelings and enables you to respond thoughtfully before you armor up and react against it without the poise that draws respect.
Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE is an executive coach and corporate CEO who helps busy leaders get off the treadmill to nowhere to be more effective, earn more, be more calm and enjoy connected relationships with the people who matter while it still matters. Watch her FREE Master Class training on Three Things to Transform Your Life and Career Right Now at www.MaryLeeGannon.com.