As leaders, we’re in front of people all the time. People are looking at us to set an example, to show direction and maybe for signs of weakness. So being able to control our behavior is super important. Most of us prepare ourselves for meetings that we expect to be stressful. Unfortunately stressful moments sometimes catch us by surprise and we don’t react as well as we might like.
I remember once I was in a meeting where a few people hadn’t done what they’d committed to. To my surprise, they attacked me for having unreasonable expectations. Meanwhile, my boss had given the CEO a tight deadline for the project. I was under fire and I said some unfortunate things.
After the meeting, a wise person asked me why I became so defensive and angry. I replied that I was under attack and I had to defend myself. He told me that I need to separate myself from my emotions and thoughts. I didn’t understand what he was saying. He continued, “Your emotions and thoughts are just that, your emotions and your thoughts. They are not reality. Your mistake is to confuse your emotions and thoughts with reality.” It took me several years of practicing yoga and meditation to understand what he had said.
Now when I feel myself feeling attacked or stressed in a way that may lead me to lose control of myself, I stand back from the situation and imagine myself as the director of a movie that I’m in. I recognize that I am a character in this drama who is feeling X and thinking Y. Then I ask myself as the director of the character in this scene how I want my character to behave, and then I choose how to react. Now it sounds like a lot of thinking, but this process only takes about a second.
Taking that one extra second is well worth it. It has has saved me from acting out in regrettable ways more times than I can count. It has even worked in situations where my inclination was to withdraw and clam up.
Gaining the level of self-awareness was hard for me. I found that meditating for even five minutes a day was beneficial. It’s a great opportunity to check in with myself and notice what my thoughts and feelings are. It has greatly improved my self control. After all how can you control yourself, if you have no awareness of where you are?
QUESTION: How do you keep yourself from acting out when unexpectedly stressed?
Leadership/Career Coach Kris Ishibashi works with leaders to bring together their skills, their authentic selves, and their intentions to inspire their organizations to superior performance. Click here to set up a complimentary consultation.