Looking fear straight in the eye— it’s not something most of us are comfortable with, but it’s a challenge that you can realistically become comfortable with. My recent article, Escaping Gravity: The Importance of Confronting Workplace Fears And Soaring Beyond Your Comfort Zone , demonstrates that by engaging in an activity that stretches your emotional limits just one time each day, you can gain the strength and courage to conquer far more than you think. Having that difficult conversation you’ve been avoiding or intentionally seeking small rejections from colleagues are the kinds of activities that strengthen your neuro muscle and turn your fears into second-nature endeavors.
Now, with your toolbox equipped with this core understanding, you are ready to put your intentions into practice . Let’s use a hypothetical business meeting situation as a practical place to start. Suppose you’ve been invited to a meeting where the leaders of your profession will be listening to YOU. How will you use your experience facing fear to prepare in advance of the meeting? How will you use those same tools when you’re in the thick of the meeting to keep cool and remain focused? Take some time to address these questions and start to make them your protocol before and during actual meetings going forward. Here’s your official primer.
Before The Meeting: Gearing Up For Success
Some prerequisites for entering a meeting where the focus is you might seem like second-nature endeavors, like organizing your talking points, getting enough sleep, and feeding your belly a proper diet in the hours leading up to the big interaction (of course, you already do these things, right?) Then, it’s important to visualize how you want to show up in front of these folks. You can “become” that person by addressing some last-minute adjustments to your personal chemistry. For instance, you should give yourself a body scan and assess how you physically feel before the meeting. Is there a positive overall sensation running through your body, or can you sense a little toxicity?
Follow this with a brain scan to get a sense of your general emotional state. Are you psyched and optimistic about the meeting, or are any positive emotions overridden by negative self-talk? If the latter is the case, be aware that such negativity can trigger your Sympathetic Nervous System and thrust you into fight, flight or freeze mode, compromising your temperament during the meeting.
Your mission in this crucial moment is to lean into your emotions, even if this feels unpleasant. Negative emotions will fester (particularly anxiety, fear and impatience) and will not simply disappear unless they’re addressed (or worse, until they erupt!)
During The Meeting: Pulling It Off
Of all the intentional behaviors you exhibit in high-stakes meeting situations, pacing yourself is a reliable way to regulate all the rest. A quick sigh will help you here, since it realigns your Central Nervous System and sets your personal tone. Take this a step further by bringing a beverage to the meeting. When asked a tough question, have a sip and use that extra moment to restore your pacing and your focus. This is the kind of space that Viktor Frankl was perhaps referring to when he said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
During your exchanges, be in touch with your body language. For example, you can get lots of mileage out of a smile, both internally and externally. Even an almost-imperceptible shifting of your mouth toward a grin is disarming to others, and it calms your fight/flight/freeze inclinations. Then, get genuinely curious. This reengages your prefrontal cortex, which moderates your social behavior and assures your personality remains on-pace with the discussion at hand.
Be dialed-into your emotions throughout the meeting, and monitor how they change from moment to moment. You’ll begin to notice how emotions control your behaviors, and with this knowledge, you can avoid “reacting without thinking”. If you do get triggered, you can use your thoughts to regain control of your emotions and send yourself back into your intentional, professional mode.
Taking just one breath can allow you to change gears and present in a way that makes you proud. Embracing and practicing meditation will come in handy when trigger situations arise, as it’s the ultimate way to keep in-touch with your body and your emotions.
Despite all of these approaches, the fact is that you can’t just walk into a high-stakes meeting and instantly be in-touch on every level. That’s why our next stop in this discussion will be to “practice perspective”.