Four tips for mental strength on the job. How to keep a cool head in difficult conversations?
5 minutes to go before talks begin! Ms X is meticulously prepared. A single slipup could ruin all the effort. A rush of excitement sweeps over the body, Ms X feels her heart pound and her hands go clammy. She wonders. ‘Will I be able to keep a cool head despite the pressure to perform? Will I be able to control my emotions?’
Mental strength on the job is a crucial factor for success.
But one without which we often feel helplessly exposed. Any one of us could suffer the same fate as Ms or Mr X! Difficult conversations where we are confronted with conflict, rejection, criticism or bad news are part and parcel of work and life.
In business coaching, people often ask me:
- ‘How can I save face in difficult conversations?’
- ‘How can I control my nervousness when a conversation takes a disagreeable turn?’
- ‘How do I keep my focus despite my emotions?’
- ‘How do I deal with my uncertainty?’
- ‘How do I keep my aggression in check?’
No matter how well prepared we are, every difficult conversation puts us through our paces all over again. Why is that? Where exactly is the problem?
Why the head overheats and control slips: lack of focus
I have identified a major problem source in my coachings:
Especially in critical situations, our minds and intuition tend to swing back and forth between two worlds.
Namely between the past, where we’ve had negative experiences, and the future, where we are afraid to fail.
The world of the past in our heads.
Our experiences shape us profoundly: A single negative experience at a young age can seriously undermine our self-confidence. If this bad experience is repeated in some way or another, it triggers a pattern of thought and, as a result, a pattern of behaviour.
That is how everyone develops their own patterns of behaviour over the course of their lives. As a consequence, 3 people with different backgrounds may react differently in the same problem situation:
• One person may become defensive.
• Another may become aggressive.
• And yet another may be completely unfazed.
Of course, these response patterns may also occur in combination, depending on the pressure level and sensitivity threshold.
Do you believe that one of these reactions is preferable to the other? That is something we will take a closer look at in another article.
Intuiting the world of the future
In critical situations, fear causes our thoughts to scatter away: We judge, interpret, anticipate, assume, make scenarios. We think ahead about what may happen in the future so much that our attentiveness to the current situation falls by the wayside. As a result, mistakes happen when it really matters: during a difficult conversation.
What can you do about that?
Build up your mental strength.
Being mentally strong means: Being present – with all your senses. Have you ever had a chance to watch ski professionals before a race? They are highly focused: on themselves and entirely on the next step ahead, their performance. They don’t speculate about what would happen if they fell on the ski slope. Nor do they think about what it will be like to reach the finish line safely.
4 tips to build your mental strength:
Be present in the moment – before and during the conversation:
Do not interpret any of your dialogue partner’s statements, do not anticipate possible consequences, do not assess your impressions. Listen attentively to your business partners and remain completely true to yourself. This way, you will be able to give a cool and considered response and avoid self-fulfilling prophecies.
Focus your attention on where it is needed: the here and now, your subject.
This will help you stay clear enough to ask the right questions and find the right solutions.
Say STOP to your thoughts! Make it clear to yourself:
You are the captain of your thoughts. Stay in charge (of yourself)! This is something you can practice anytime, for instance before falling asleep, when a swirl of thoughts threatens to sweep you away
Trust your skills: Give your intuition space.
It’s more reliable than you think. But it will only speak to you if you keep a cool head.
You can reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or +436602400135.
How to build mental strength will be the subject of forthcoming articles. Stay tuned!
Your Raluca Ionescu