Keeping Your Cool in Heated Situations

Stress—dozens of things can trigger it. You’re getting ready to leave work for the weekend and your boss hands you a new project, due Monday. A co-worker sends you a terse email in response to a request for help. Your subordinate takes a two-hour lunch break and misses an important meeting. Just like that, you’re seeing red.

Before you fire off that angry, emotion-filled email, take a few breaths. Remember what you do in this moment will reflect your character to those around you. Do you really want to damage your reputation, for a brief second of blowing off steam?

To keep your cool in heated situations, try out a couple of these strategies from corporate leaders.

Take a breath

“Pause a moment and breathe. Take in some oxygen. You need to think clearly and rationally, and the more emotional you are the less clear and rational you are going to think,” says Michael Garty, Corporate Director of Leadership Development at Lippert Components.

Garty recommends pausing and re-evaluating the situation. Once you’ve got your emotions under control, you might realize that you’ve interpreted the interaction incorrectly. We often make these interactions personal, when they often aren’t.

“We tend to interpret through that lens and project our own baggage of thinking onto the sender. We are typically off a mark or two,” says Garty.

Change Your Mindset

“If you're feeling a little worn out by work, consider putting a Post It note on your desk with the word 'Game' on it, so you can be reminded to keep this mindset all day long,” says Siimon Reynolds, the founder of a consulting group focused on mentoring CEOs.

Reynolds believes that there are two mindsets that people bring with them to work, the war mindset and the game mindset. Showing up to work every day prepared to battle your colleagues is totally unsustainable and can take a huge emotional toll. Instead, Reynolds wants you to approach work with a game mindset. Leaders with the game mindset still work hard, but see their work through a fun, more entertaining lens.

“Time and time again I have seen people who think this way both outperform the warriors and simultaneously be more relaxed and happier,” says Reynolds.

Get Support

“Don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help when needed, and offer to assist them in return,” says entrepreneur Faisal Hoque.

When you feel like you’ve been given more than you can handle at work, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. Whether you’re delegating tasks to your subordinates or building up a team of specialists for a more long-term project, you’re helping to relieve the pressure. This will ultimately improve your inter-office relationships.

“There is comfort in not being alone in times of stress,” says Hoque.

YPN Book Club

Failing Up: How to take risks, aim higher, and never stop learning

By Mike Franz, Formerly with Visit South Bend Mishawaka

When you think of failure, what are a few words that come to mind? Defeat… nonfulfillment… disappointment? In his autobiography, Leslie Odom, Jr. explains how “spectacular failure is the secret ingredient to your ultimate success.” Through mentors, a willingness to fail, and a tireless work ethic, you learn how an aspiring young actor from Philadelphia found success and became a part of theatrical history in the Broadway masterpiece, Hamilton.

Throughout Odom’s life, he has been inspired and challenged by his mentors. Three of his most influential mentors are featured throughout the pages of this book with each having a separate, but equally important, life lesson. Mrs. Frances Turner was Odom’s grade school social studies teacher. At first, Odom was a handful in Mrs. Turner’s classroom, causing trouble day in and day out. It wasn’t until a parent-teacher conference where his father gave Mrs. Turner all the power and control, that Odom and his teacher finally became congenial, even friendly. Their relationship would grow stronger when his teacher helped Odom enter the African-American Oratorical Competition in fifth grade. Despite coming in second, Leslie used the motivation of failure to retool and come back to win the competition the next four years in a row. 

"When I hear people complain or bemoan coming close to a sought-after goal and missing by inches, I am quick to reassure them. Celebrate the fight and the proud run. Coming close can be confirmation you are on the right path."

After seeing early success in his acting career with a short stint in the Broadway ensemble of Rent, Leslie attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

There, he met Tony and Grammy Award-winning performer Billy Porter. Porter taught Odom some valuable acting lessons in college, but it was not until years later that Porter taught Odom his greatest lesson. Porter called Odom years after they met and said he wanted him to star in a theater piece he was working on called Being Alive. There was a part in the piece where Odom’s character is supposed to have a “Billy Porter moment” and amp things up all the way to ten. He had never really taken a risk with any performance but decided to risk everything by embracing his willingness to fail.

"Everything changed in an instant the first time I really gave myself the room and the permission to fail spectacularly. ... I screamed. I flailed. I jumped. I ran. I cried. I let go. I flew. I soared. ... In my willingness to fail, I flew instead."

Whether you are seeking out a new job, looking to reignite the passion for your current position, or are looking to embrace failure and pursue your dream, Leslie Odom, Jr.’s autobiography Failing Up is a source of inspiration for us all to wait for the opportunity to present itself and not throw away our shot when it is right in front of us.