Emotional intelligence: How to stay calm in high-pressure situations

Emotional intelligence: How to stay calm in high-pressure situations

Keeping calm under pressure can test even the best leaders. Try these four practical techniques to apply your emotional intelligence the next time a coworker or situation hits a nerve

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3. Master your ABCs in unexpected situations

Not every high-pressure situation can be predicted. Bates Communications offers a method for dealing with sudden or unexpected issues that Myers’ group calls “ABC:”

  • First, ask questions. Instead of reacting, ask for more information. “That is a great way to make other people feel heard and for you to learn more about a situation, as long as they are non-judgmental questions,” Myers says. “It is also a way to put a pause in the situation and buy some time to think.”
  • Second, breathe. Take a few deep breaths. “Breath control is an important method to refocus the brain when you are feeling tense or emotional,” says Myers. “Breathe in through your nose on a count of 3 and exhale on a count of 3, to calm and focus yourself.”
  • Third, count. Pick a number that works for you – three, ten, whatever. Then when confronted with a tense or emotional situation, count to that number to give yourself time to get control of your emotions and respond more calmly.

[ What signals are you broadcasting? Read also: How to create a sense of urgency without stressing out your team: 7 tips. ]

4. Practice empathy

“You can’t control triggers, and you can’t control emotions,” says Grady. “Emotions are a neurobiological process, and they happen before you’ve even realized it. However, those emotions lead to a thought, and that’s where you have the power to shift your interpretation.”

If one of your triggers is a missed deliverable or deadline, for example, that can immediately trigger frustration, anger, or disappointment. Those emotions can lead to thoughts like, “This is obviously not important to them,” or “They don’t respect me.”

“This sets you down an emotional path of reaction,” Grady says. Another option is to engage in empathy once you realize that you’ve been triggered. “Think about other possible interpretations,” advises Grady. “Maybe this person had a family emergency, or maybe they were just assigned another project and were told it takes priority over everything.” This line of thought can encourage curiosity or understanding rather than reactivity.

[ Read also: Teaching an elephant to dance - a free eBook on leading teams during digital transformation. ]

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