Merge's Blog

Tag Archives: maintaining composure

Respond calmly by “putting a stone in your mouth”

Being able to respond calmly in the face of anger can be difficult.  A client (who is from the Nisga’a nation) recently shared with me this powerful advice from a Nisga’a elder –

“Put a stone in your mouth”. 

It was in the context of being thoughtful about when to speak and what to say in potentially challenging situations.

If only you could turn back time …

Consider for a moment, all the times in the past when you have said something, only to wish afterwards that you could turn back time and do it differently.  All too often, emotionally-charged circumstances cause us say things we invariably regret later.  When you “put a stone in your mouth”, it is a powerful metaphoric reminder to pause; to feel the contours and ragged edges of the rock; to shift it around in your mouth as you consider what you should or ought to say or not say.  When you pause before you speak, the silence can seem interminable to you, but at the end, it can in fact become your best friend.  Words that are spoken thoughtfully, rather than in haste, are much more likely to give you the outcomes that you desire. Continue reading

Identify Triggers and Keep Your Cool

Picture of man pointing and yelling, showing loss of self control.

Have you ever come dangerously close to losing your composure?

We’ve all been there. Sometimes—if we can’t control ourselves—it can lead to disastrous situations and negative impacts on relationships, employees, and colleagues.

Whether it’s a frustrating employee, irritating colleague, or even an exasperating client, you know that as a leader it is crucial to stay calm, poised, and positive.

What do you do in these situations?
Continue reading

When things are out of control, are they really?

controlSome things are entirely and wholly out of my control.  Severe weather, for example.  I cannot effect change in the weather.  Whether it’s a sweltering heatwave, a blinding snowstorm, or a stormy hurricane, I can’t make the weather calamity go away, no matter how hard I try.

But, on the other hand, there are plenty of things I can do to control how I react and respond to harsh weather.  I can seek out a cooler environment (inside an air-conditioned shopping mall for example), delay my road-trip to future date to avoid wintry driving conditions, or gather essential documents and supplies as I evacuate to safer ground.  Instead of complaining about the effects of severe weather, I can choose to take thoughtful actions to avoid, or at least, mitigate the damage.

Just because we can’t control the situation doesn’t mean we can’t influence the outcome

There are a myriad of events in our lives that are outside our sphere of control.  But that doesn’t mean that we can’t influence the final outcome.  Continue reading

Maintaining your composure – do you react or respond?

I have blogged many times about how important maintaining your composure is for you as a leader, even in trying situations. Doing math, managing your actions, and identifying main triggers have been suggestions I’ve made in the past. Lately, this issue came to the top of my mind again.

SpiderDuring a recent trip to Hong Kong, I found myself seated at a small table in a tiny streetside outdoor café one afternoon. There were only four other tables, equally small, all of them occupied. Suddenly, the two well-dressed women at one of the corner tables screamed loudly almost in unison, and stood up, shouting rapidly, nearly knocking over the table in their haste to get away. Even though I don’t understand Cantonese, it didn’t take me long to figure out what happened. A giant furry brown-and-white spider, still suspended by a remnant of a cobweb, had dropped down from the tree above, and come to a stop almost in front of the faces of the two women. Startled and obviously distressed, they almost knocked over their coffees and desserts in their rush to get as far as possible from the monster arachnid. It was mere seconds later that the café owner stepped from behind his counter, walked over to the table, gently lifted the offending spider and placed it on a bush a few feet away. The two women, still rapidly speaking in Cantonese, continued to be unnerved and agitated, presumably by the spider’s size.

As I watched the drama unfold over a matter of minutes, it occurred to me that it wasn’t the spider that caused the turmoil. Continue reading

Don’t let your anger send the wrong message to your staff and co-workers

businessman in anger screaming puff going out from earsLet’s face it, if you’re in a position of leadership, there are times when your staff (or your peers, or your boss) will do or say stupid things that will drive you nuts, enough that their actions may cause you to get angry enough to explode. Don’t. Your expression of anger says more about you than it does about them. When you get visibly angry, what you’re really saying, whether you mean to or not, is “I feel like I have lost control, so I have lost control.” What you’re really doing is saying that you feel helpless. Which often is the exact message that you don’t want to communicate.

Instead, improve your success as a leader by learning how to manage your anger. Here’s an approach that I’ve used for many years. Continue reading

Leave difficult personal issues outside the workplace

When you’re facing a personal crisis or dealing with difficult personal issues, it’s not unusual to want to get it off your chest by venting to others, often the people you work with.  It’s only human!  But … when you’re in a position of leadership, choosing who you voice your frustration to becomes critical.  Let me explain.

Dirty SockA manager at a client company is going through a messy marriage breakup, and not surprisingly, emotions in his personal life are running high.  On an almost daily basis, he rails on about his [insert colourful adjective] wife and her [insert just as vivid adjective] lawyer – to his staff, his co-workers, his clients, just about anyone who will listen.  Clearly he has got a lot on his mind and he needs to unload somewhere, but it’s the where that is the problem.  Airing your dirty laundry in public, without restraint, is never a good idea.  And probably without even realizing it, this manager is creating a very awkward working relationship (with his staff, co-workers and clients) AND seriously undermining his own credibility.  Continue reading

So what does a crisis really mean?

Several years ago, while at several speaking engagements in China, one of my participants showed me how words in Mandarin Chinese are often combinations of several characters that also have independent meanings.  An example in English would be the word “stopwatch”.  “Stop” is an independent word, as is “watch”, and when combined, they create a third meaning.  I was so taken with some of the examples she shared that shortly after, I blogged about the word “listen” which in Mandarin made up of three radicals (or combinant characters) – ear, sound and heart (What does good listening really mean?).

Chinese_CrisisWell recently, a colleague in Singapore made me aware of the Chinese word for “crisis” which is made up of two radicals – danger and opportunity.  Wow!  Insightful or what?  As leaders, our days are filled with crises, some large, some small, all of which cause us varying degrees of frustration.  The frustration no doubt comes from the danger, but despite the heat of the moment, what if we were able to spot and focus on the opportunity?  Perhaps we could come out of the difficult situation better off than we were before.

What do you think?  Are you able to spot the opportunity in the face of danger?  Or is it easier said than done?

How to maintain your composure? Do math!

We’ve all had the experience of saying or doing something in the heat of the moment that we’ve regretted later. And in a professional environment, its consequences can carry serious negative repercussions to both career and business success. Even one inappropriate emotional outburst can tarnish your reputation for years to come. So it’s worthwhile knowing how to stay composed, positive and unflappable even in trying moments, and learning how to think clearly and stay focused under pressure. In previous blog posts addressing this subject, I’ve offered two ideas:

Identify your main triggers

Know that your actions will control the outcome of any situation

DoingMathHere is one more: do math! Yes, I know it sounds silly, but it’s actually VERY effective. When you’re facing stressful or difficult circumstances, the emotional centre of your brain (known as the amygdala) takes over. Math however is a logical activity which takes place in your neo-cortex, a separate part of your brain. By doing a math problem in your head, you will engage the logical neo-cortex of your brain and overcome the emotions centred in the amygdala. Continue reading

How to maintain your composure? Know that your actions will control the outcome of any situation.

Almost two years ago I wrote a blog post titled How to maintain your composure? Identify your main triggers. In it, I promised that I would offer additional ideas in future blog posts, and then of course, I promptly forgot! Well, I received an email last week from a reader who was surfing the archives and he gently pointed out to me that I had not kept my word! So for Jeremy (and anyone else who works with clients or employees who “push your buttons”), today’s blog post is for you!

When you find yourself in situations where you’ve come dangerously close to losing your cool because of a frustrating employee, an irritating colleague, or even an exasperating client, it’s important to recognize that that these people are behaving predictably. Your past experience with any specific one of these people means that you can expect or at least guess what they are going to say or do that will make you upset or angry. Realizing that this behaviour is predictable AND that they’re not going to change their behaviour MEANS that the only thing you can change is your own response or behaviour. Managing how you react will improve your control of the situation. Continue reading