Flip your Mental Switch and Go from Stressed to Skilled
You are a confident presenter and a good leader. You are prepared for your big meeting. Then the unthinkable happens. The new VP makes a negative comment and suddenly, you can’t think. Your heart starts to pound, you start sweating, and your hands become ice cold.
You don’t need to understand biology to flip the switch back and regain access to your knowledge, skills, and experience. You just need to know how to change your state.
While working in corporate, I was in a status meeting surrounded by my peers, three levels of executive management, and a new vice president who was hired to launch a new line of business for the company. This new VP, who I will call Jane, was a corporate bully. In meetings, her tone was condescending and her questions were accusatory, usually beginning with, Why didn’t you…? She pushed all my buttons.
After her domineering negativity was directed at me several times, I became agitated at the sight of her. In the meetings she attended, I was immediately on the defensive. My thoughts became jumbled and my confidence bottomed out. Even though I was prepared for my meetings, I sounded like I didn’t know what I was talking about, even to me. This happened several times, then I decided to change.
The first thing I did was to become aware. That was easy. My trigger was Jane. Every time she opened her mouth, I became a babbling idiot, even though I had the skills to perform with excellence. I began investigating my “soft skills” and what I found was amazing. I was a victim of the amygdala hijack.
The amygdala, a tiny organ deep in the brain, gets us ready to fight, flee, or play dead in response to a threat. It is immediate and overwhelming. The amygdala is an old-brain response that enabled our distant ancestors to live another day.
Amygdala hijack, a phrase coined by Daniel Goldman in Emotional Intelligence, happens when the amygdala senses a stressor as potentially life-threatening. It is an overreaction that disables the brain’s frontal lobes and activates flight/ fight/ freeze psycho-neurology. The “thinking brain” is blocked and stress skyrockets. An amygdala hijack will get us away from an oncoming car, but it is totally inappropriate in a project status meeting.
Change your State
After identifying Jane as my trigger, I prepared a response to her next onslaught. In the next meeting, as soon as she opened her mouth, I felt the now familiar rush of emotion. Then, I said to myself, “You just had an amygdala hijack”.
That brought a smile to my face and made me chuckle, internally. In that instant, my physiology changed and I regained control of the meeting, using all the skills and knowledge in my “thinking brain”. No longer defensive, I acted and felt like the professional that I knew I was.
Laughter is one of the best ways to change your state because it releases the amygdala’s threat alert and activates the opposite – feelings of joy, happiness, and play. Another way to change your state is to move your body. Your posture mirrors your internal state. When you change your posture, your inner state follows suit. A great way to do this in a meeting or group setting is to mirror the posture of someone who has the qualities you want in that moment. Match the body posture of someone who is confident, assertive, or relaxed and you will take on those qualities..
Reap the Rewards
In today’s fast-paced, information-driven world, we often forget that there is an old, lizard brain still sensing everything around us. If we pay attention to it, we can not only get important data for our next saber-tooth tiger attack, but we can learn to bypass its overwhelming impact and regain access to the knowledge and skills you worked so hard to develop.
Take Purposeful Action
Achieve your Goals
Are you steadily moving towards your goals or do fail to take action? Do you self-sabotage your efforts to make personal change? Do you let challenges divert you?
What if you could:
- Get crystal clear on what is most important to you.
- Identify hidden obstacles and how to overcome them.
- Create a personal action plan for the direct route to your goal.
Schedule a Professional Transformation Session and discover how to achieve your goals with support every step of the way.
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