Have you ever walked into meeting, knowing you were going to be emotionally triggered, aka ‘set-off’ or have your ‘buttons pushed’? If so, you’re not alone; many of us have felt our blood boil in a meeting because of what someone else did or said. It’s critical that we’re able to control our emotions (or at least hide them) displaying friendly or upbeat emotions is an important part of the job!
Emotional management is the concept that will help us keep our emotions under control. It begins by bringing together self-awareness and other awareness: You know your triggers and how you’ll react and you can read others and anticipate when those triggers are coming your way. Scripting, venting and preempting are three tools to help you keep your cool when you know the chances are high that you’ll lose your cool.
Imagine you’re about to go into meeting where historically you’ve been triggered into some not so great reactions. Maybe at a certain point you got really irritated or felt out of control and said “You know what, I’m sick of this,” and then the situation really went downhill.
By analyzing your previous history you know you don’t do so well in certain moments. And you know, based on your observations of the people that are likely to be in that meeting, that there’s probably going to be a tough moment or two where you will be vulnerable to losing your cool. Scripting out a prepared statement to use in that moment gives you the power to bypass the trigger.
So, when that tough moment arrives, all you have to do is to look at your notecard where you’ve written your simple script (open-ended questions work great) and read what you’ve written. Two of my favourite scripts are “I’m interested as to how you came to that conclusion. Could you tell me more about that?” and “That’s an interesting reaction. I’m wondering what causes you to feel that way about this.”
Venting doesn’t mean letting loose after you’re triggered, but rather venting before you go into the meeting. It’s all about anticipation. If you know that this meeting is going to trigger you, you anticipate that and vent a little bit.
In one study, a social psychologist broke into two groups a classroom of students who were having exam anxiety. Ten minutes before the exam started, one of the groups was asked to just sit there think about whatever they wanted to think about. The other group was instructed to use the ten minutes to write down on paper a stream of consciousness about their deepest, darkest fears. What was fascinating is that the people that sat quietly for ten minutes without writing ended up with an average of B minus on the test. The people that wrote down their deepest darkest fears for ten minutes ended up with an average score of B plus. That’s a pretty big swing for doing nothing more than writing out your fears. Venting works really well.
Before you go into that meeting, take ten or fifteen minutes and vent. Write down in stream of consciousness style. What are you afraid of? What are you feeling about this meeting? What do you think is going to happen? What’s a likely bad outcome? What’s making you nervous? What are you apprehensive about? Here’s an example of a stream of consciousness vent ‘I know Fernando is going to try and take over running the meeting and that is going to really trigger me. And then everyone else is going to pretend that it didn’t happen like they always do, except I am going to know it happened, and boy does it irritate me that Fernando has no regard for anyone else. He just shouts everyone down and nothing ever gets done in these meetings and I know I am going to get irritated and how the heck am I supposed to succeed in this company if I’m always having to deal with junk like this?’
These are the kinds of things that get stuck in our brains, but when we vent them out on paper, before they happen, it’s like a purge. Now you can go into the meeting already having said your piece. You don’t have that irritation bottled up which means it’s not going to leak out at some point during that meeting. Vent out your frustrations on paper before you go into the meeting so you can stay smooth, calm, cool, collected, present and aware.
Pre empting allows you to stop a bad situation before it happens. For example, perhaps you know going into the meeting that there will be a group consensus decision making. And Fernando is going to dominate the conversation, as he always does, and it’s going to get ugly and bad. You can preempt this situation by handing out little voting sheets of paper to every person at the start of the meeting with the instructions that in today’s meeting there will be a vote rather than free-flowing conversation. Preempting requires asking yourself, “What could I do to not get into that negative situation in the first place?”
Scripting, venting and pre empting are not mutually exclusive; you can even come to the meeting prepared with all three of these tools. This way if your preempting works, you have already unburdened yourself emotionally, and you have a script in your back pocket that maybe you didn’t need to use, but that’s okay. You have it for next time. But if your preempting doesn’t work the way you wanted it to work, you have the script ready to go. You’re coming into the meeting mentally and emotionally less and you’re in a place where you’re prepared to stay calmly in the moment.