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5 tips to navigate difficult conversation podcast leadership coach anne koopmann

022. 5 Tips to Navigate Difficult Conversations

How do you navigate difficult conversations in the workplace?

As a leader, you often have to engage in difficult conversations. It can feel tempting to avoid the conversation and wait for things to pass. This does not lead to any resolution and can cause more issues in the future. So how do you handle difficult conversations in the workplace?

Avoiding these conversations can have a negative impact on the relationships with your peers, with your colleagues, with your manager and with your team members. It’s important you engage in difficult conversations because it shows you have the courage to speak up, to be vulnerable and to talk about things that might cause discomfort at the start. However, they can lead to great progress.

Your direct reports also need your feedback. They want feedback.

In todays we look at five tips that will help you to make this a little bit easier for the next time you have to prepare and engage in a difficult conversation.

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[00:00:00] Anne:

In today’s episode, I’m going to share with you my top tips of how you can regulate your emotions in the heat of the moment. Whenever you feel overwhelmed, angry, frustrated, or even said, and I’m going to share with you a few things that you can keep in mind and do right in that moment. So let’s get started.

So hands up, if you’ve ever had an emotional moment at work, maybe you started to cry. Maybe you were shouting and raised your voice, or maybe you just stomped out because you felt so angry and frustrated and overwhelmed. I’m sure most of us have had these moments. I certainly have. I had moments of tears at moments of massive frustration where I felt like I had to shout or raise my voice.

And then afterwards I felt like, oh my goodness, why did this happen? I should manage my emotions better. Anger, frustration and overwhelm a quite natural responses to stress and they can kind of come up whenever we feel frustrated when we witness injustice. When we have a high emotional investment in whatever’s happening in that situation. Maybe we are part of conflict and it doesn’t feel good to us. Maybe our values are threatened and impacted. So all of these moments can create big emotions for us and these emotions then lead to thoughts and in the heat of the moment lead to certain behaviors.

And this is because whenever we feel stressed or threatened, our body goes into fight or flight mode. And in this mode, it releases a lot of cortisol and adrenaline hormones that help us deal with stress and they help us to be ready to go in for a fight or runaway. And sometimes we even freeze.

This is a quite natural response and it actually means that we lose access to our rational thinking brain, the prefrontal cortex. It actually doesn’t allow us to really think strategically, think logically in that moment because all our energy is needed to fight or flight. So most of our reactions and responses in these heated, emotional moments are done just as release of the emotions without us really thinking about the consequences later on.

And often we’re actually not quite able to impact it right in that moment. Our body almost just goes in automation drive and it just does what it does.

But let’s be clear there’s nothing wrong with feeling emotional at work in your workplace. We are all humans and being emotional as part of being a human being.

So if you ever feel overwhelmed, angry, frustrated, sad, it’s completely normal. And it is allowed to feel like that. And after all it shows that you’re invested in what’s going on around you, you’re invested in what happens to yourself and the people that you lead, or your colleagues and peers.

But it’s a very essential leadership skill to be able to self regulate your emotions in the moment so that you are acting with intention and that you are in control of your behaviors because after all, as a leader or an individual in the workplace, you want to make sure that your emotions have, or your behaviors have a positive impact on the work that you do and on the people that you are with. You want to be in control of your emotions and your thoughts. And furthermore, you want to know and be intentional around how these emotions and thoughts, impact your own behaviors and the behaviors you display towards others. And so how are you impacting others?

So as a leader, you are a role model and as a leader, you often need to be able to self regulate your own emotions to be there in an open and neutral state for your team members so that you can fully support them in what’s going on in the business, in that moment. Also, you want to be able to maintain a neutral and calm state in heated discussions so that you can actually bring your best points and thoughts across, and you can get the best outcome for everyone involved.

So self-regulation will allow you to delay your response, for when your prefrontal cortex is switched on again, and you can actually think about your actions. So the power and the key here is to step in when your emotions want to take over and to kind of stop that automated response. So how do we do that?

So, this is a big part of emotional intelligence and a big part of emotion intelligence starts with self-awareness. Self-awareness means that you are aware of what your emotions are doing with your body. What is the trigger for your emotional reactions? What are certain situations that always set you off?

What are things that are important to you? And then furthermore, if you’re feeling a certain emotion, how does that impact the thoughts and the things you tell yourself and impact your behaviors? How does it feel when you start to lose control? How does it feel in your body?

So when you really self-aware, you are able to activate your coping mechanisms well in advance so that you never go all the way into fight or flight mode. However, in a workplace, in life, things don’t always go to plan and we sometimes can be surprised and we can actually be thrown into situations that will set off all our emotional triggers. We can’t do anything about it beforehand.

So you might often find yourself in situations that you could not anticipate and therefore you couldn’t activate your coping mechanisms in advance. So what do we do when we’re in the heat of the moment? When we feel threatened, when we feel overwhelmed, when we feel angry and frustrated.

To get out of fight or flight mode our body needs a way to release the energy. And so the cortisol and adrenaline that is released in your body, it’s there for you to have a lot of power to run away or to fight, obviously.

So there’s a release of this energy that is required. Now very quick, not in control, release would be shouting, would be hitting, would be slamming the door. And we want to make sure that we use another way to release that energy that does not have an impact on other people or how other people see us.

If you’re by yourself, it can be super, super valuable to just scream into a pillow, let it all out. Let the energy out. There’s nothing wrong with that. Or even hit a pillow if you want to, that’s completely fine and appropriate. But in the workplace, you might want to find different coping mechanisms that are actually not necessarily visible to others, but help you to quickly calm down in the moment, so that you can wait and buy yourself some time until your rational brain is switched on again.

So there are ways to calm your body. And one very obvious way is to take a breath. And I know, I know you’ve heard this all before, but there is such a power in your breath and it can really slow down your nervous system and it can slow down your emotional responses and give you the time to actually release all that energy and calm down and then get out of the fight or flight mode. So taking a few really deep breath can often be the differentiator in you reacting versus taking some time before you make a decision on what you say or do.

It can also be quite powerful to actually just move your body and step back, like quite literally just step one, step backwards from the other person just by doing that, it will signal your body that you’re removing yourself a little bit from the threat and the movement, the step will actually be a release of the energy, so that can already help you to also calm down quicker.

When things are really tough when you’ve received some tough feedback and you feel quite defensive about it, or when you just got really fired up and angry, it can also be absolutely fine to say, ‘I’m feeling a little bit emotional right now, are feeling frustrated. And I do want to continue this conversation, but I want to continue when I feel more calm and more leveled again.

So could we please postpone it? I’m going to go now and I will contact you to figure out a different time.’ That’s absolutely okay. And it actually shows that you’re quite mature in your emotional intelligence and it’s absolutely okay to postpone a meeting so that you both get the better outcome in the end.

You could go for a walk. If you’re at home, you can take a shower, the water, the way that that impacts your body and the calmness that it brings can be quite powerful. Walking will release the energy. You could do a workout. You could go for a run. You could also try and distract yourself with other things until you have time to calm down.

Because if we keep thinking about the same thing, we might never get a chance to actually calm down. Whereas if you remove yourself from that situation quite literally, and also start to think about something else, it can help you to calm down quicker. For some people, it might be good release to write about it.

Write down all the angry thoughts into a journal, for example, everything that worries you, everything that overwhelms you, write it down on paper. So that’s there that you’re not missing the information you can access it later, but just letting it out of your body to release that energy and then come back to it later.

The power of coming back to a difficult situation later and thinking about it, will make sure that you can actually start to look at the facts. You can start to look at the information at hand and your emotions don’t cloud your judgment on what’s actually going on and other people. So the threat will suddenly not look as big anymore because you can look at it with your rational brain.

So self-regulation does take active movement, active tasks, active behavior. From your side, you can’t just rely on it. You actually have to take charge of your own emotions. You are responsible for your emotions and your reactions and your behaviors. Even if someone has triggered something, has hurt you, have said something harmful, you are responsible for your reaction.

You have the power to take a breath, remove yourself from the situation, calm down. Then think about the appropriate response later. It’s much more powerful when you go back into a conversation. When you go back to a situation, even when you come back to the task that you have, and you felt overwhelmed before, if you’ve taken a break and you come back, you will see that things don’t look as threatening, as dangerous as difficult anymore.

If you’ve given yourself some time to release that emotion.

But if all fails and you have an emotional moment. It’s okay, as well, be kind to yourself. Give yourself time to calm down and then got back to the situation or the person and apologize, and just say, ‘look, I got quite emotional because I’m clearly invested in this matter. I’m clearly invested in this discussion that we had and my emotions took over. This is something that’s really important to me. And I would love to discuss this at a later stage when I feel a bit better. And I would love to hear your input and also provide my thoughts in response.’

So I hope that these tips and these thoughts have given you a little bit more guidance of how you can react in the heat of the moment, knowing that it’s completely normal to be emotional, but keep in mind, you are responsible for your responses, for your actions and behaviors. You can’t necessarily control your emotions.

They will just happen, but you can control what you do after. So, let me know what you have taken away from this episode. I would love to hear your biggest takeaway or your thoughts or what you struggle with in regards to managing and self regulating your emotions in the heat of the moment, tag me in your responses, send me a DM or an email, and I would love to hear from you.