, Calm Under Fire

Calm Under Fire

February 29th, 2016 Posted by Leadership Tools, Performance Coaching

It’s not uncommon for people to feel flustered when under pressure to answer a question in an important meeting. Even if we know the answer our minds can sometimes go blank and we get tongue tied. If you’re like most people who’ve experienced this you may even chastise yourself for getting so wound up. While there’s always something lying underneath this response (often it’s the flight, fight or freeze response kicking in) there are some simple steps we can take to better remain calm under fire.

1. Mentally calm yourself. Often just saying, “calm and relaxed” to yourself is all that’s needed. If you’re going into a tough meeting mentally prepare beforehand by imagining how you want to be and how you’d like to hold yourself throughout the meeting regardless of what comes your way.

2. Listen for the Roman pillar in the question or statement. The Roman pillar is the key meaning behind what the person is asking or saying.

3. How do you know you’ve got it? Repeat back to them what you think it is by paraphrasing. If they say, “yes” you know you’ve fully understood what it is they’ve said and you can respond appropriately. If you’re not sure, or they say, “no” simply ask them to repeat it maybe even asking for an example.

If the statement or question is phrased in a negative or judgmental way when paraphrasing turn the negative into a positive or at least a neutral phrase before answering. For example, “There’s no way this project is going to come in on time?”  Might be rephrased as, “You’d like to know how we’re planning on achieving the project timelines?”

4. Use a buffer to give yourself an extra second or two to formulate your response. Paraphrasing is already a natural buffer in a conversation and you can use these prefixes below to gain even more time:

  • That’s a good question…
  • I’m glad you’ve raised that…
  • I’m thinking along the same lines… or, I might be coming at this from a different angle, let me check…

5. Be prepared! Prepare yourself for those questions that are likely going to come up. Know your stakeholders and what their areas of focus are and think about the questions they are likely to raise.

6. Lastly, it’s okay to say, “I don’t have that information at hand but I’ll get it to by 1pm tomorrow afternoon” or whatever timeframe is appropriate. Giving a timeframe gives certainty to the other person…and make sure you do get them the information when you say you will.


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