Need Grace Under Pressure? It’s all About the Preparation.

Need Grace Under Pressure? It’s all About the Preparation.

Don’t you know someone who always seems to have it all together?  That person who can reason and stay calm when others are melting down?  The one who stays focused and productive during adversity – even leads others to a good result despite a major cog in the wheel?  Rest assured his/her grace under pressure is no accident, and you can do it too.  The following are enduring tips to help you stay cool when things get hot.

1. Prepare:

There is no substitute for preparation.

This sounds elementary, duh- I know, but all too often I’ve seen professionals show up to an important meeting unprepared. You know what happens then? They feel uneasy, perhaps inadequate, and even begin to get defensive or aggressive in response to questions that would be reasonably expected.  None of these traits send a message that you’re the right person for the job, you will handle “it” well, and people can count on you for success.  So, first and foremost, do your homework.  A lack of preparation is easily recognized, and leads to negative impressions about your intelligence or ability.  It also increases your stress level and does a number on your confidence.  So do yourself and the people you are meeting with a favor and prepare.

2. Visualize:

Competitive athletes have long used visualization as a way to train themselves to perform specific actions under all types of circumstances.  This can work for you as well.  Fortunately, you don’t have to actually experience equipment failure, challenging questions, dissenting opinions or adversity to learn how to handle them with grace.  Simply picture the circumstance in your mind, and mentally rehearse handling it effectively.  This practice can be calming and confidence building, so give it a try!

 3.  Create contingency plans:

Considering potential questions and barriers, as well as potential negative outcomes, helps to reinforce your topical knowledge and reduces the chance you will freeze, or lose your cool, if things go sideways during an important meeting or presentation. Take the time to consider potential timing variations, along with productive ways to handle them, before you get there. What if the key decision maker has less time than your presentation requires? Make sure you are ready to be flexible whether you run into a technology issue, less (or more) time than you intended, or realize your audience is not “picking up what you are putting down”. Don’t dredge on stubbornly; have contingency plans ready and ensure you are your most effective.

4.  Learn from mistakes and close calls:

OK, you blew it – or came darn close.  Now, go back to #1 and start over.  Make sure you don’t make that same mistake again, and show up next time even more prepared for a successful outcome.

Having the finesse to respond calmly and effectively during challenging situations is a skill that can be developed, and is often admired. The application of these tips will arm you with a stimulus response, and stimulus responses appear to be effortless.

Thank goodness, in our everyday worlds extreme heroism or bravery need-not be required for success. However, thoughtful planning and preparation just might make you look like a hero, or at least the coolest cucumber in the room.   In addition, colleagues, bosses, employees, co-workers, friends, and family want to be around “that guy or gal” and are likely to seriously consider what he/she has to say.

Think about it.