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How to respond under pressure – practical options

 In Delivery

In this fifth week for CIOs who want to BTO (Be The One) to work with, the focus is on how to handle pressured interactions and environments.

Here are two main principles with sub-points for handling various pressured interactions:

1. SODA (Stop – Observe – Decide  – Act). Let me explain SODA. Whenever you feel pressured, the SODA sequence technique is a good one to use. Often you’ll be tempted to immediately Act in response to pressure. Don’t do that.

Rather, Stop. This means you Stop speaking. Observe the environment around you (ie. The people and how they are responding/acting in the moment. Decide on a response option from the option choices available. (Response options will be covered in the next principle). Act on what you have decided.

By using the SODA loop, you’ll be perceived as someone who is a fast thinker (paradoxically by stopping your speaking and slowing down your body movement you’ll be perceived as a fast thinker, as confident, persuasive and as someone to trust.

2. Know and Use TOYF (Think On Your Feet) options. Michael Valvo, a chess champion has said the downfall in chess as in life,  is that people concentrate on one or two moves, when there are at least seven or eight moves available. So too, when you are under pressure, you have numerous options.

Knowing what those options are and wielding them wisely in pressured situations will serve you well. Here are options you can use:

a. Use the ‘Engagement Nod’

This means whenever someone asks you a question, makes a remark to you, gestures to you for a response – that you nod your head to indicated that you are engaged in the present moment and that you are paying attention and processing what they have said. Use of the engagement nod is important.

When you’re under pressure there can be a tendency to ‘freeze’ your head (as if stunned). This ‘head freezing’ can make you look disengaged, nervous and fearful.

b. Response Options

– Say, “On first thought let me respond this way” or “Top of mind I’d say this”. Then you would trust whatever thought first comes into your mind, and speak it.

– Say, “Give me a moment to think about that.” Then you need to trust yourself to go inside your head and choose a response (even though it may not be the best response).

– Say, “I don’t have fixed view on that.” This option is under-used. One of the markers of top leaders (eg. Barack Obama, Bill Clinton) is that they are willing to admit that they don’t know something. Counter-intuitively this is a behaviour of a confident person.

– Self-disclose your internal monologue. Say for example, “A number of thoughts spring to mind in response to that question – let me elaborate on one of them.” Self-disclosure and transparency of your thoughts is a mark of confidence.

– Say, “Let me stop there.’ When you are unsure where your train of thought is leading you or you feel that you have talked too much, this is a good option to use.

– Say “It’s not appropriate for me to answer that question.” Sometimes people will ask you a question (at times to bait you) which is not appropriate because of the audience, situation etc.

– Offer the floor to someone else before you respond, if you notice that the person is keen to respond

– For leading or aggressive questions say, “I don’t accept the premise of the question.”

– For aggressive comments, for example, “All this stuff you’re saying is rubbish”, respond firstly with, “Feedback is great” or “Thanks for the feedback”. Then you would counter the claim. For example, my response to the ‘All this stuff is rubbish’ comment would be, “Feedback is great – actually the people I work with get great value from the ideas and techniques I share . . . I’m always wanting feeback and willing to learn – what are you getting at?” Then the person who has made the aggressive comment has to back it up. I’d listen to their response and respond accordingly.

The key message for this post: Use the SODA (Stop, Observe, Decide, Act) and TOYF (Think On Your Feet) options for pressured interactions.

What to do in the next seven days: On purpose, in one of your sales presentations, meetings, or interactions, use the SODA technique or one of the TOYF options.

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