Have you ever been in that situation where you walk out of the room and wish you hadn’t just said that?
Or worse still, you walk out of the room and that’s when you think of the perfect response to get your message across.
The trouble is that often, it’s just too late. The damage is done. We all know that feeling, the one that feels like an emotional hijacking of your very own runaway train. And I am sure you have muttered the words “hindsight is a wonderful thing” more than once in your life.
But what about foresight?
Or better still what about insight and managing well in the moment?
Essentially that is what it is all about. How well you can manage yourself, especially in a tricky situation, maybe one where you just don’t agree. They are usually the times that things don’t go to plan. When that happens, are you one of those people who shuts down and withdraws when faced with confrontation? Or on the flip side is your approach forceful and direct to get your point across?
Or you might be that person that is able to effectively glide through any situation unruffled and on task? Wouldn’t that be nice? I know if given the choice that’s who we all want to be. The person who actually drives their train and drives it with purpose. The one who can retain focus, keep calm and feel good about themselves and the interactions they have with others.
There is a term for this. It’s referred to as “Inner Management”.
It is our ability to recognise and understand what is going on inside ourselves and to be able to then manage ourselves in a positive and proactive way.
I only know a handful of people who are truly masters at this. These people take the time to build strong relationships but are also not afraid to share their thoughts and opinions, especially when they count. People who remain calm under pressure and just seem to take certain situations in their stride. People who call out bad behaviour and manage conflict well, getting straight to the heart of the problem with kindness and care rather than beating around the bush. And most importantly people who seem to be optimistic and driven and as a result are satisfied with where they are at.
So why are they so lucky?
Well I can tell you it’s not luck. A lot of what I have just described does not come naturally for most of us. These are learned skills; they take practice and can be developed and strengthened over time. They require us to grow from our experiences and our mistakes and to find better ways to build relationships and achieve results.
Let’s explore a little further…
Think about what actually does happen for you when you are angry. Let’s say it’s that moment where you just cannot agree and to make matters worse cannot back down. Where do you feel it? Is it physical? Do you feel your heart race, your jaw tighten, your shoulders tense? Do you feel a bit chaotic and just can’t seem to think straight? Or does it make you feel emotional and you want to cry or maybe even raise your voice or yell at someone?
Really knowing yourself and the way you react in situations like these are key to what happens next. Because with these signs, your body is literally signalling you “Warning! Danger ahead!”. It’s letting you know that you have a choice in what occurs next.
If you are aware of your physical and emotional signals, you are part of the way there. And that’s exciting.
CS Lewis said “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending” And that’s what we’ll do.
So, let’s just say the next time a tricky situation pops up. You know the one where you just don’t agree or are too worried to put your point across… Listen to your signs and signals and choose a different course.
I know you’re frustrated right now and thinking “well just how do I do that??”
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Yes, I know we all do it all of the time. We’d be in trouble if we didn’t. But I mean breathe deeply. Actually, take the time to slow down and breathe intentionally. The number one reason for doing this is that it helps to calm your central nervous system, which is super important. Another reason is it gives you some time to collect your thoughts which is the starting point for you in choosing to respond rather than react.
Because you have slowed things down by doing some deep breathing, you can now start to think about what next. You can even say this out loud so people know what’s going on “I just need a minute to think things through”. This is healthy as it demonstrates openness and transparency and also helps to put the other person at ease. From here you can plan – What are you trying to achieve? What do you want to discuss? What do you need to know?
Now it’s time to look at the other person’s perspective. What is going on for them? How does this affect them? How do they feel about it? And actually asking them can be really helpful. It means you don’t have to fill in the blanks (and possibly get it wrong) and it also shows them that you care enough to try and understand where they are coming from. This is a big diffuser of conflict.
I guarantee that by this stage, your runaway train of emotions will be ready to pull into the station. And because you have slowed things down, you can have a balanced conversation and share views in an open and respectful way. Really hear what each other has to say, without letting emotion and opinion get the better of you. The end result is that whatever the decision or action required; you will be better equipped to deal with it because of the way you have chosen to respond.
And on a final note you may not ever leave the room thinking “I wish I hadn’t said that”….