The ability to stay calm and not react negatively to unexpected events is an extremely valuable skill to have. We tend to admire and respect those who can handle pressure well than those who crack under pressure.
If we consider professional sports, the ones who reach the highest levels of achievement don’t just have exception skills and talents, they are also able to train themselves to respond in the most effective way when placed under high levels of stress or pressure. The ones that are able to do it consistently are the ones that reach the elite level in sports.
We can also develop the ability of staying calm under pressure because not only will it allow us to respond the best way we can, it will help us strengthen our mental muscles for coping with high levels of stress. If we can develop that ability, we will be able to move past challenges a lot easier and faster.
I remember an event in my corporate career, when during a conversation with a manager, he went into a verbal tirade because of what he thought was not being done or not going well at the site I was managing. He was an account manager and did not hold back as to why he thought we weren’t serving “his” customers well. That verbal outburst took me by surprise initially because I had not seen his behave in such a way previously.
Once I was able to get my thoughts together, I think I smiled and said words to the effect, “It is quite amusing to see you this way.” Now for the record, that statement did not go down well at all. He felt like I was antagonising him and he continued to verbally attack me.
I kept smiling and when he stopped his outburst, I calmly said, “You’re visibly upset right now. Can we continue this conversation at a later time when you are able to speak without yelling at me?” That immediately shifted the state he was in, and he apologised for his outburst. We did end up continuing the conversation at a later time and was able to reach an outcome that worked for everyone concerned.
Staying calm under pressure is a skill, which can be developed just like any other skill. It will take focus and attention to improve, and the more we are to apply techniques to stay calm, the better our ability will be over time. Here are five simple techniques that will help us stay poised, calm and composed when under pressure, which in turn, will ensure we continue to move forward towards what we want.
- Avoid the urge to respond straight away. The temptation to react especially during heated conversations or when someone says something that affects our identity in some way is very high. In such instances, the best thing we can do is give ourselves the gift of time — to ponder what our response should be or just to compose ourselves. If we react, chances are we can aggravate the situation further so it is best to pause and think about the best way to respond.
- Take slow, deep breaths. When under high levels of stress, our breathing tends to be shallow and fast, which also increases our heart rate. By slowing down our breathing, we take in more air, which in turn, helps increase our mental alertness and our ability to respond. Slow breathing also calms us down which is why practices such as meditation, yoga or other practices that focuses on developing our inner abilities, are extremely valuable.
- Give yourself a short break, if possible. Sometimes the best thing we can do to recompose ourselves is get away from the pressure situation we are facing. We can do that by going outside to get some air or going for a short walk just to engage the body again. If taking a short break is not an option, then maybe doing some simple stretches or just closing our eyes, if safe to do so, can be other things to consider doing.
- Visualise your ultimate outcome. All too often, we get caught up in the doing and busyness of work that we sometimes lose sight of what we are actually trying to achieve. Reconnecting with our end outcome can often help put things back into perspective, and also help us better see other people’s point of view. Knowing what we are trying to get done and why we are doing it will give us the motivation to do the best we can to accomplish it.
- Take one action to turn things around. While doing all the inner work is extremely valuable, our reality will only change if do something different. Sometimes all it takes is one small step to get back into the swing of things. It could be asking for help or advise, or doing the one thing we have been putting off for whatever reason. Movement creates momentum, and once we start seeing results again, the pressure we feel will start to reduce.
If we can strengthen our ability to stay calm under pressure, we will solve problems a lot better and reduce the amount of mistakes we make. We will also be more attractive to others simply because we are able to demonstrate a more effective way to cope with high-pressure situations. If we don’t stay calm under pressure, we will lose the trust of others to come up with the right solutions, at the right time, to the challenges we face.
Question: What is another technique that can help us stay calm when under pressure?
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