Originally published on LinkedIn

You can’t control the chaos. Deadlines are going to come and go. People are going to have ups and downs. The economy will wax and wane.

But just because you can’t control chaos, doesn’t mean that you have to be a part of it or a victim of it, or thrown off balance by it.

Here are 5 “go-to” principles that will work every time you use them. The key point here is you have to implement them. That means you must make a conscious choice to refuse to be thrown off, to refuse to panic, or to refuse to get caught up the the drama.

  1. Be aware. Be aware that things will happen to try to throw you off balance. Co-workers will ask frustrating questions, the internet will go down, someone will attack your credibility. People will do what people do. That’s about them, not you. The only things you can control are your response, your feelings and your actions. Become aware of your immediate gut response to a stressful situation. That is where you have to catch it before it gets out of hand.
  2. Breathe. Once you are aware that you are irritated, angry, offended, or whatever else comes up for you, the first thing you do is take in a slow, deep breath. Notice where the stress is in your body and purposely relax as you exhale. You might need to do that two or three times, until your heart stops racing. You need to slow your breath down. Shallow breathing, brought on by stress, also exacerbates more stress by continuing to breathe too quickly. When you are in a panic or other stress reaction, your IQ goes down, and that doesn’t help solve the problem at hand. Breathe in. Breathe out.
  3. Detach. Purposely, emotionally detach from the drama of the moment. Distance yourself from the negative emotion. What others say and do is more about them than you. They are frustrated. They have strong opinions. They are stressed. You don’t have to buy into it. Viktor Frankel said, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies your freedom to choose your response.” Let that space become your retreat, your safe place. Even if the stock market makes a nose dive and you know it will affect you in a big way, you still need to retreat to that safe place for a moment, so you can calm down enough to ask the question, “So, what can I do about that at this moment?”
  4. Communicate clearly. You don’t want to react with the same negative energy that has been thrown at you. You want to respond with calm wisdom. Know what you want to say. Say it clearly, accepting any responsibility that is yours to accept, without blame. If there is an action that you need to take, clearly state what you will do about it. Ask the other person to repeat what they heard. Clarify, if it’s not correct. Then confirm, and continue on with your business. Don’t grumble under your breath.
  5. Respect. Never let anyone else’s behavior make you respond in any other way that is not consistent with your integrity. Respect their right to an opinion or to think or say what they choose, but respect yourself just as much. Dig the roots of your integrity in deep, so that you maintain your self respect and you are not thrown off by the emotions of the moment. What you put out comes back to you. Become known for your integrity, calm and respectful wisdom.

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