As a leader it’s important that your emotions don’t get the better of you. If they do, you could make mistakes or say things you’ll later regret.
When working with people, it’s inevitable that your buttons will be pressed. This is why giving thought to how to respond to different scenarios is a helpful practice to develop.
Just as a professional athlete prepares for every eventuality, when leading or working with others, it’s good to give thought to how you’ll respond when faced with a difficult or tense situation.
Save time and energy — prepare for the bad days
We all have good and bad days, don’t we? And if truth be told, if left to our emotional instinct, on the bad days our responses would most likely prove unhelpful, unproductive and leave us having to restore damaged relationships.
And though relationships are key, the sad thing is that the more time we spend on addressing relational issues, the less we get to focus our energies on the bigger picture goals that’ll make a difference in the world.
I can think of times where I’ve responded to someone from a place of negative emotion — out of frustration, pain or anger — and on reflection felt I could’ve handled the situation better. Can you relate?
On those occasions I needed to spend time on correcting a wrong (on my part) in order to then move forward. Though productive in the long run, those times spent in conversation could’ve been better used.
This is why knowing how to respond beforehand is a discipline worth developing, and giving thought to what to do in both best and worse case scenarios is a helpful way of avoiding unproductive outcomes in moments of conflict.
The reason it’s so helpful is because if we’ve already decided how we’ll respond to those who rub us up the wrong way, we’re better able to avoid the obstacles that our instinctive emotional responses may otherwise cause.
Control what you can and assume the best
The key thing here is taking responsibility for your own responses, as they’re the only thing you can have control of.
When working with others, they’re sometimes unaware of the fact that their words and actions have the potential to trigger negative emotions is you, and that’s something you’re unable to do anything about.
But note I said sometimes. Which I say because there are those who have other agendas, and who for whatever reason, will attempt to put obstacles in your way.
In my opinion, if you suspect someone is like this, get them out of your team — quickly! But be careful though.
I learnt from a leader I respect hugely that in these situations it’s important to assume the best in people; figuring that any button pressing is unintentional.
It’s good to give people the benefit of the doubt and work for a finite amount of time to seek resolution before making any final decisions.
The benefit of knowing your response
Knowing how to respond in different emotive situations will help you to maintain a focus on being purposeful and proactive towards your end goal, rather than getting sidetracked by emotion or manipulated by those with other agendas.
But there will be occasions when you’re unprepared and caught off guard — it happens! So on those days, it’s good to have an idea about how you remain calm so as not be reactive in any given moment.
For some it means taking deep breaths, thinking happy thoughts, repeating a mantra or quote of some kind, or praying.
What matters most is being as clear as you can on how you’ll respond in instances where your emotional buttons are being pressed. And if you’re not yet clear, having at the very least an idea of a method for keeping calm that works for you.
Your response, your choice
No-one is free from having to manage negative emotions in tense moments of discomfort or challenge — it happens to us all.
But we all have the opportunity to determine beforehand how we’ll respond to the situations we find ourselves in.
We either choose to respond in ways that prove helpful in the long run, or to react in ways that are counterproductive and that’ll require more time and energy to be resolved going forward.
How you choose will determine the outcomes you get. So assuming you want to see positive outcomes, choose to plan ahead of time to respond maturely to your negative emotions.
Over to you
In what future situations might it be helpful to know your response beforehand?
- A Mental Trick to Help with Challenging Conversations by Liane Davey