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Serving the Business and Professional
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N. Elizabeth Fried, Ph.D.
Coaching Corner: Executive Presence Series
September 9, 2014 Blog Series 4 of 9: Executive Presence:
Managing Stress--Cognitive Change Techniques
In the last issue talked about
amygdala hijack and why it happens. I also provided you with a simple
breathing technique to help you manage this phenomenon. Next, we’ll discuss
some other highly effective methods to help stay cool under pressure and
maintain executive presence.
In Your Brain at Work
(2009), David Rock discusses cognitive change as another technique used
to calm your amygdala. Cognitive change involves reframing your thinking about a
situation. This results in altering your outlook. One of my favorite quotes
about cognitive change comes from Wayne Dyer who said, “When you change the way
you look at things, the things you look at change.”
One cognitive change technique
is to label the emotion you’re feeling. Let’s say you walk in a room, and
you notice that your body is tensing or that you’re clenching you teeth. You
feel it, stop for a moment, and say, “Hmmm, I’m feeling angry.” Just labeling
alone can diffuse the situation if you catch it early enough. However, you must
be careful to say as few words as possible to yourself; otherwise you’ll further
fuel your anxiety. You just want to observe and let the feeling pass. Labeling
helps to release the energy and gives you the time to become a detached
method is to reinterpret the event. Here you decide the threat no longer
exists. Imagine for a moment that
you’re sitting in the aisle seat of a plane, deeply involved in preparing for an
upcoming meeting, so your head is down and you’re absorbed in your work. Someone
tries to get in to the window seat, interrupts you with an “excuse me,” and
steps all over your feet. At first you’re irritated because you were
interrupted, and now you’re even more irritated because the person stepped on
your feet. You think, “What a jerk,” and then you look up and see this person
has a white folding cane and dark glasses. He’s obviously blind. In an instant,
your state of mind changes from feeling anger and irritation to compassion.
That’s how quickly you can settle
The next technique is
normalizing. Let’s say you’re invited to attend a networking event where you
don’t know anyone and you’re feeling anxious about it. You tell yourself that
it’s normal to feel that way, and everyone else who’s new probably feels the
same way. I used this approach with a client who was a newbie to professional
networking. I helped her to recognize that other people also feel slightly
uncomfortable, which gave her relief to know she wasn’t the only one.
I have two more to discuss, but
I will save them for next time to keep your reading to under 3 minutes. Stay
In the next insertion we'll discuss additional ways to manage your stress.
For additional one to two-minute sessions on other topics, go to the
Coaching Corner Archive.