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Managing Emotions in Meetings

Recently an interesting topic came up at a training session. A participant asked my opinion as to whether they'd [in their words] 'ever be better at managing their emotions while in meetings'. They said:

"I often find myself feeling overwhelmed or unable to get my point across. At the slightest hint of criticism I start to stumble over my words and feel like my tongue is tied. I then feel  my frustration build which makes it less likely that I'll say something useful in the meeting. What can I do?"

These are the tips I came up with for dealing with emotions so we can retain our poise at a meeting.

Top 10 List:


  1. Go into every meeting fully prepared. Half the time I coach an individual and we debrief a 'less than optimal' result at a meeting such as described above, they eventually admit to not having done the preparation they instinctively knew needed to be done beforehand - either lack of discipline or other work matters interfered with proper preparation. "When we walk in confident of our selves and in the knowledge we are ready to contribute fully, we are less apt to stumble over our words or feel 'caught out' and guilty when called upon to contribute our thoughts and ideas at a meeting".
  2. Breathe: Sounds simple yet it is the foundation for the way we manage (or mismanage) our stress and emotions. Breathe deeply - inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth and you will find that you begin to lower your tension and find you are better able to string your words together in a coherent and logical format. Making sure the breath goes into your belly and is not a shallow breath is the key.
  3. Take a moment. Calling a break in a meeting is perfectly appropriate when there are several more items on the agenda. Often when we are in meetings and fail to plan in a break, individual contributions are less effective for everyone.
  4. Roll Your Shoulders. Our tension tends to build in several key areas of our body. By relaxing/releasing these areas we find that our mind can come back to clarity, helping us articulate our message most effectively. Shoulders are a key area for most individuals.
  5. Look around you. Sounds odd? Often our emotions rise from subconsciously suppressed reactions to dynamics in the meeting. Instruct yourself to look around you, really pay attention to the look and feel of the room and the people. Noticing the environment around us brings us back to the moment so we can 'get back in the game' and out of our head!
  6. Really listen to what the other person is saying. Like the prior tip this one is about focusing your attention on the 'present' moment and not getting caught in a mind fog from the last comment that you think you messed up on. By paying attention to the nuances, tone, and voice of the people speaking you stay connected to the conversation and limit the ability for your mind to 'split' (which would make it even harder to contribute in a meaningful way to the meeting).
  7. Contribute something insightful. When the next opportunity arises to say something of value, say it aloud. A typical reaction of someone who thinks they've blown it is to 'back out of the conversation' and become merely an observer. They 'opt out' of contributing which they know is the wrong thing to do, and so further emotion builds up, complicating their reactions and increasing their tension.
  8. Detach from the prior moment and fully engage in the current moment. The prior tips are great ways to help this. Another is to simply consciously choose to 'park' the prior conversation. Put it on hold to address at a later time and instead commit back to the meeting. A visualization that can work is to imagine a chest in your mind that you 'put the issue away in' by closing the lid. For highly visual people this is a great tactic and a skill well worth developing.
  9. Use Positive Self-talk. This sounds a bit 'new agey', yet it is proven that we can influence our emotional state with such tactics. Elite athletes use this sort of approach to great success as do many highly successful professionals and performers.
  10. Develop your capacity to manage your emotional state in the long-run. Consider learning to meditate. Do yoga or any other activity that lessens the 'build up' of tension so that it is less likely to interfere with performance in the future.
    Karen Denega offers Insight Coaching and Workshops that help you identify and address the challenges both in life and at work - so you can be more successful and happy.


The Enlightened Experience

"Gifted with master wisdom to help you on your journey, I'll help you activate your life purpose, reprogram old archetypes, and explore personal mastery. Together we'll go on a wondrous journey that expands your possibilities as we explore your true limitless potential."  Karen Denega

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