difficult conversations and clients
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Hello lovely and thank you for joining me for the Searching for Serenity 7 day video tutorial series, Dealing with Difficult Conversations and Colleagues.
So today we are thinking about how to manage your own responses. Yesterday was a big topic and it genuinely is something that I could talk about for hours, if not days, dealing with emotional intelligence and reading the responses of other people and responding to them appropriately.
Today we deal with difficult feedback; whether that is in a meeting and the other person is becoming agitated and offering bigger body language and challenging you or whether it is simply in an office environment and a colleague who is negative and impacting on you in some way; difficult conversations with them or their behaviour that might be inappropriate but requires you to manage your response.
I'll start with the example of an open plan office. I have said in previous videos that open plan offices are somewhat my idea of hell. That is because the women I work in Searching for Serenity are intensely emotionally intelligent. I work with very empathetic women who pick up on the emotions of others, who want to do a good job and want to please other people. However, in an open plan environment it is very easy for someone else's overly emotional responses or even ,loud responses, to impact on you.
We have all been there when a colleague slams down the phone and everybody flinches or the boss walks and there is that aura of 'something has gone wrong' and everyone starts to shrink in response. These are the responses that we are going to look at managing; it's about managing your own internal responses. This is in addition to the first day video, in which I briefly covered, this is not about internalising. You are not going to take onboard other people's views and issues, it's therefore how you manage these in a physiological way.
So, why am I talking physiology? When you are in a stressful situation certain things might happen to you; your blood pressure might rise, your heart rate might rise, you might mix up your words a little bit! You might also find yourself stammering or stuttering or with sweaty palms. These are all the results and symptoms of stress and of a response in your body that is negative. You are in fight or flight mode. So it's how to manage those symptoms when you have to give a presentation and all you are doing t shaking, or when you have a colleague who is getting bigger and louder in a meeting room and making you want to shrink in response.
There are two ways of dealing with this.
The first is brilliant if you can get away from this person; so if for example you are sat next to someone who is slamming the phone down, breathing, huffing and sighing loudly, you might be picking up on that and how to deal with that by getting away form your desk for a few moments. Now if it is lunchtime or the end of the day and you can not only get away from your desk but away from the office then that is brilliant; physically removing yourself from the situation and doing something that is very different, i.e. outside, is going to work wonders. Sometimes you can't do that. I would encourage you to get away from your desk in some other form. Get up and make a cup of tea or even go to the toilet and lock yourself in a cubicle, even if just for a minute or so, whilst we do this.
The best way to deal with stress is to get it out it out of your system and we are going to do that by mindful breathing.
Yes, I know, I sound woo-woo, I'm not going to burn incense don't worry.
Mindful breathing is physiological responses; it is scientifically shown to help you reduce your blood pressure, lower your heart rate and reduce your flight or fight response, getting the stress out of your body without running around the office and screaming or throwing something at someone (both of which might be valid at other times, but not today!).
By mindful breathing I mean that you are going to focus on your breathing and you are deliberately going to slow your breathing. This is because when you are stressed you might find the volume or pitch of your breath goes up, you might find yourself talking more quickly, you might find yourself catching your breath.
If you are quite emotionally intelligent then, listening to the video at this point, you have probably picked up on the clues I am giving off and your stress level might have gone up with me as I spoke those words.
So what we are going to do is step away from our desk to make a cup of tea or go to the toilet and we are going to focus on numbers.
You are going to breathe in for a slow count of four, hold your breathe for a count of four if you can, whoosh your breath out quickly, and then repeat.
Repeat those slow breaths a few times, whilst making a cup of tea (make the whooshing noise loud if there is no-one else around!). Doing this whilst you make a cup of tea or hide out in the toilets for a moment, repeating a couple of times will help to reduce your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, reduce the fight or flight response.
If you need to do that 6 times a day, so what? I don't think any of your colleagues are going to complain if you get up to make them a cup of tea 6 times a day!
Now, what if you can't get away from the other person? You are in a meeting or stuck face to face with the person causing this response. Breathing loudly in the face of this person is probably not going to go over so well, so how can you manage then?
My favourite way to do this is simply to focus on what I am doing for a moment. For example, if you are sat with a pad of paper and a pen in front of you, for a few moments, pay very mindful attention to the pen. Feel the sensation of the pen between your fingers, roll it around ,think of the noise it makes if you tap the pen on the paper.
You will still be listening to the other person, and you might even be paying full attention to what they are saying, making eye contact, nodding and engaging in active listening but you are just withdrawing a little of your attention from them.
The other thing that you can do is change the subject. now of course, I am not suggesting that, whilst your colleague rants and raves about there being the wrong type of coffee, that you simply respond 'sunny day out there'. What you do is turn the conversation around, which is something that we will focus on a little more tomorrow, but being able to turn the conversation around by engaging in active listening and acknowledging what the other person is saying and naturally drawing that conversation to a close or jumping on to a similar-but-different theme will help you to move on from the stressful topic and put you back in some control of the situation.
Whilst we will explore this in further depth tomorrow I would ask you to engage in the more mindful breathing and considered responses. I would also encourage you to explore more mindful and relaxation techniques such as meditation or even using a mindfulness app on your phone. I use one fantastic app, which flashes up reminders during the day to use a 30second silent video, which encourages you to slow your breathing. You breathe along with the app and then straight back to work.
Those call breaks will allow you to reduce you stress levels down, remove the fight or flight response that you may be drawing from other people, and to regain some control of the situation. That is a technique that you can apply in any circumstance whether you are in the office, in meetings, under so many deadlines you don't know where to turn. Apply each of those, be mindful, apply mindful breathing or change the conversation around to allow you to move n from the stressful conversation so that you can reduce your stress response.
In addition to this I would recommend having some kind of stress release outside of work. For example you could engage in mindful breathing, you could walk to the next bus stop to give yourself a few moments of, literally, walking it off, and thinking about the situation. Being able to change to the narrative in your brain so that you do not simply circle the same beliefs and wind yourself up but instead unwind it and let it go.
A physical release whether that be sport, singing (which is a great stress release because you are practically yelling it out) breathing, talking it out with someone else but with a positive outcome, are all key at this stage and will really help you with those conversations so that you are not overwhelmed.
That is today's tutorial, again this is a simple and easy to implement technique but it can be difficult to remember to use it at the right time. If you don't remember to use these techniques every time don't beat yourself up, just remember everything time something else comes up it is another opportunity to implement this and make it a habit.
That's what I want you to do for today. Let me know how you are getting on; if you need more help and guidance you can always drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can as k for more help and support in the Searching for Serenity Facebook group; it's filled with other women walking a similar path to you and is filled with people offering and asking for support, help and guidance.
Let me know how you are getting on, I would love to hear from you. I will be back in your inbox tomorrow, in the meantime have an amazing day and do take care of yourself.
Bye for now.
Take care of yourself