One of my executive coaching clients has the perfect storm of business and political challenges converging. Her company is going through dramatic and rapid change, resulting in rampant office politics as people feel uncertain and insecure about the future. In tough environments like this, emotions can run high and feelings can be hard to control. We have all been there at one point or another.
The next time you find yourself in a situation that triggers you, try these strategies.
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Breathing is one of the easiest and most effective steps you can take to help you get centered. Inhale to a count of 3, hold for 3 and then exhale for 3. This pace of even, methodical breathing can get you out of fight-or-flight mode. And you can even do this in a meeting, and no one will know.
Once you calm down, answer these questions:
- What do you really want or need right now?” Maybe you need to feel validated, respected, or understood.
- What does the other person want or need?
- How do you want to show up in this situation? In other words, what do you want others to consistently understand when they think about your leadership? For example, it could be with professionalism, integrity, and confidence.
It can help to write your responses to these questions or talk through them with someone else, to really crystallize what’s going on.
Sometimes the emotions of a situation can prevent you from moving into problem-solving mode. If you’re having difficulty re-centering or you keep replaying the scenario in your head, one of your core values may have been threatened. Once someone is fully triggered, it takes 20 minutes to recover.
If you find yourself in this place, the best action may be no action. Give yourself some space so you can show up in the way that you want. For women, talking to other female friends can also help because doing so releases stress-reducing hormones (according to a groundbreaking study released by UCLA in January 2014).
The next time you feel yourself getting triggered, start by simply breathing. It’s a small shift, but one that can help manage your emotions during challenging situations. Remember, small steps can lead to big results.