Embracing your inner Kanye

(NB: Ok, we thought we were closing the blogging section for 2012, but Pamela just had a great thought she wanted to share with all of us and we believe it is worth listening, given you may be experiencing a super busy, somewhat crazed week:)

Kanye West strikes me as the kind of fella who likes things the way he likes them and when things change or plain just don’t go his way, Kanye is not averse to a bit of high profile stage invasion to insure the world knows it. Whether it’s unleashing a highly amusing tirade after losing out at the 2006 MTV Europe Video awards or high jacking Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 VMAs, it seems Kanye is happy to let us know exactly what is on his mind. It’s a level of personal freedom and honesty that absolutely fascinates me, and I suspect that I am likely not alone in wishing I had the guts to jump on my desk, bust out a cleverly worded rap and front up to adversaries in the workplace.

But for us mere mortals this approach is just not an option, and as we slide towards the Holidays and deal with the associated stressors of a crazy schedule, unfinished work projects and family overload, we’ll have to find other ways to manage our inner Kanye. So what can we do? Well, when working with executives in high stress situations, I find the first and most effective tactic in helping them manage their response is explaining the biological tug-of-war that’s going on in their brain. When we find ourselves in highly charged situations the emotional part of our brain (known as the limbic system) kicks into gear overwhelming the more rational prefrontal cortex creating a fight or flight response. This is super helpful when we are about to be munched by a passing dinosaur, but not so helpful when we find ourselves at the mercy of a tyrannical boss. So without the option to run away or start throwing punches (or jump on that desk I mentioned earlier) we need to employ other strategies to respond to what Daniel Goleman calls the ‘Amygdala hijack’. Here are my top three:

The top three steps to stepping back:

  1. Take 3 deep breaths before responding- it sounds too simple to be effective but 6 seconds is all it takes for the amygdala hijacking chemicals to disperse from your system. Taking three deep breathes will clear your head and allow the rational part of your brain to regain control. I dare you to try this practice just once a day for the next week to see the difference it will make to your workplace (and personal) relationships.
  2. Move away- just physically stepping back, even if it’s one subtle step back or to the side will allow your brain to reappraise the stimulus creating your fight or flight response; the fog will clear and your brain will realize that the toddler tantrum being thrown at your feet is unpleasant, but not life threatening.
  3. Figure out the triggers– it might be that Jenn from accounting can’t help her high pitched freak outs when it comes to your expense report, but you can help yourself by understanding exactly what it is about Jenn that causes you to lose your cool. Is it her body language? Her poorly worded emails? Her rambling voicemail messages? Understand exactly what it is about the interaction that’s causing your response and you can start to find ways to better manage the situation in the future, like walking to Jenn’s desk and asking about her kids or favorite sport before dropping your Dostoevsky length report on her desk.

I hope these tips help you manage any Holiday stressors that come your way this season and Happy Holiday!