Touchy conversations can leave us speechless or fire us to attack like a wounded animal.
Entrepreneurs, clients, team members or business partners afterwards usually regret they’ve lost their control over their business conversations.
When it comes to navigating difficult conversations, I get asked how to stay calm and in control of their emotions. Some people call it ‘in the zone’, present in the moment, in focus, centred. Is there something you can do to prevent the emotional outburst with verbal diarrhea that usually turns out into a battle? My answer is Yes, there is a lot you can do! So in this article, I’ll share some of them with you.
As a child, I was highly perceptive and quick to respond to provocations. I took everybody’s words personally and had my heart broken almost daily. My life kept throwing me into awkward situations although I would do everything to avoid drama. Funnily I then chose to become a lawyer where I witnessed even more big words, accusations and emotional breakdowns. I was not easy for me, but I slowly learned how to deal with strong emotions, and as a mediator, I was helping my clients stay calm and in control of their feelings during their tough conversations.
Staying calm in the heat of The Talk you help the conversation flow with ease and get the issue resolved.
As 6 years old I loved spending time with my grandparents. Some of the older kids from her neighborhood would tease me or hide so I wouldn’t find them. For a while, I tried my best to get in the group again. However, sadly for me, some kids enjoyed seeing me upset.
I was hurt, my little heart was bleeding, and I couldn’t hold back my tears as I came back to the kitchen where my grandmother was cooking something delicious. I remember her warm hugs and her words as she would try to calm me down ’Simona, don’t let those words get to your heart’. Every single time she said those words I cried out loud even more. I didn’t know HOW! What she advised me made sense. It was then up to me to figure out the How.
Here’s what I’ve learned about staying calm in the heat of an awkward discussion. You can use those tips in your business when you have a challenging conversation with your client or a team member or when you discuss important issues with your partner. Being calm is not only more mature, but it’s also necessary if you want to act reasonable and respectful. You can read more about how stress and strong emotions can damage a conversation in the blog here.
7 things you can do to stay calm during an emotional conversation:
1. Recall your calmness
Anchoring is a powerful technique to shift our emotions consciously. Used since 1976 by NLP founders J. Grinder and R. Bendler it’s an effective way where you can influence your own emotional reactions.
When you’re preparing for a specific conversation or for any other emotional situation where you want to stay calm, anchor your feeling of calmness. Test it several times, so you’ll see that it works for you. When you need to keep calm, bring it back and feel the calmness in your body.
Conscious breathing is an incredible technique that keeps us present in the Now. Balanced breathing provides enough oxygen to keep your brain active and helps you be focused and articulated. Notice how you breathe when in stress and how when you’re relaxed. It’s a huge difference. Consciously breathe in and exhale a few times during the conversation to recover your self-control.
3. Remember a few important and successful conversations you had in the past
Having a special conversation notebook where you track your growth, wins and challenges in tough conversations is a great help. Writing about it will help you grow your confidence, gather valuable tips and analyse the challenges you need to overcome. Why not treat yourself with a visit to a stationary and chose one notebook just for this topic? Choose how you’ll name it and journal in it regularly. I call mine Cool Conversations Notebook.
While preparing for your big conversation find some success stories in your conversation notebook. Remember you can be calm again this time.
4. Focus on the forest, not the trees
Knowing what the purpose of the conversation is, helps you keep the focus. Get the big picture here. Ask yourself if you want to heal or close the relationship? Those who focus on the tree instead of the forest, end up falling into the trap of fighting to win the battle. Without being clear about your desired outcome, you might get stuck discussing a minor detail for half an hour.
During the conversation remind yourself to see the forest and readjust your actions.
5. Listen to the meaning behind the words
Most often, people are not talking about YOU (even if it seems they are speaking to you). Try to hear what are other person’s exact worries, her desires and interests behind what she says. Allow her to express all that, and it will help her be heard and appreciated. It calms the situation, and it eases you both. As a result, it opens the space where you can both hear each other beyond words.
6. It’s not the end of the world
I understand this conversation is vital to you. Focusing only on the best-case scenario increases the pressure and makes your heart race, stimulating some powerful emotions in you.
Before you have the conversation imagine the worst case scenario just happened and there’s nothing you can do. So you can only accept it and find some lesson from it. Try to reconcile with this outcome and feel the calmness. This exercise will help you decrease the pressure and tension out of the conversation and bringing more balance into the discussion.
7. Get support
You don’t need to go through it alone. Find someone to help you with it. It might be a friend you trust or a coach, specialized in dealing with strong emotions in difficult conversations. Together it will be easier to prepare for your difficult conversation and to digest it all. During the discussion imagine this person is sitting with you in the room. You will feel calmer. It’s also much easier to understand the lessons we need to learn to move on if we have someone neutral and experienced supporting us.
Try these techniques out and see which work best for you. Many people get the best results if they use a combination of them or add some other strategies as well.
Which is your favourite technique that keeps you calm during tough conversations? Share in the comments and let us know.