Dress code: hard hats optional!

For most businesses, the ability to confidently deal with others is a crucial skill. People buy our products and services, and our ability to build rapport with them can make or break a deal. Businesses may rely on a team for their smooth running; great team dynamics and cohesiveness can make or break a team’s performance.

Sometimes, however, rapport just doesn’t happen, (or gets broken), and those personal interactions become problematic. Meetings may not go as expected and tempers may flare. Communication may go awry resulting in crossed wires and frustration.

This week has been one in which I’ve been sorely tested; managing the expectations of a team who feel resentful or angry can be challenging. A training session that I delivered for an organisation didn’t go as planned, which resulted in a long and difficult day. Dealing with one person who doesn’t want to participate can be very trying; dealing with a room full of them requires a special kind of toolkit.

Resilience is the quality needed to be able to recover from personal or professional knockbacks, and it needs to be in that toolkit. The hard hat is optional, but here are:

Ten tips to help you survive the knocks when you’ve been faced with tough treatment from some tough people.

1. Sleep on it

Distance always puts things in perspective. What may seem to be catastrophic at the time can often be viewed with a more benign lens when there’s some distance between the event and your thoughts. Sleeping on matters also prevents damaging knee-jerk reactions.

2. View it as an opportunity to learn

In the heat of the moment, when you’re under pressure, learning may be the last thing on your mind. But it’s precisely these times that can teach us the most. Were there lessons that you needed to learn? The ability to reflect on our experiences with honesty and openness, and change our behaviour accordingly, is what changes a seemingly impossible situation into a valuable one. What will you do differently next time?

3. See the bigger picture and the longer view

One experience is just that – one experience. That experience does not have to define you. One team meeting that doesn’t go as planned does not make you a bad team leader. A narrow view of who we are based on one piece of evidence is never helpful. Your experience is a small event in a much larger scenario, both in your personal timeline and your life picture.  Your confidence can be built by understanding that you’ve got through a crisis and survived.

4. Talk to people

Bottling up feelings and emotions can be damaging. Having a network of supportive people around you that you can off-load to is vital. Let it all out. Sometimes the process of talking about your experiences can be an instantly calming, and may also allow you to laugh at situations that you previously found intolerable. Accept their advice and help; let them make you feel better.

5. Be kind to yourself

Self care should be high on your agenda anyway, but at times of stress the need to think of yourself is paramount – you’re doing no-one any favours by carrying on and pretending everything is fine. Take some time out to nurture yourself. Nurse your wounds for a while, acknowledge how you’re feeling and connect with your emotions. Don’t let yourself become so deeply entrenched in them however, that you persistently pick them over and analyse what’s happened for days afterwards.

6. Don’t take it personally

Often there is much more going on beneath the surface of people than we realise. Taking a step back and asking yourself what else could be going on can be a helpful way of seeing things. Learn to separate yourself from your role; what you represent may be the problem, not you personally. Learning to stand back and view things dispassionately is a very useful skill to learn, and with a bit of practice becomes easier to do. Once learned, it can be a bit like having a Teflon skin – you’ll still feel things but they won’t last!

7. Don’t dwell

Accept what’s happened, don’t bear grudges and move on. Put things in perspective. On a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the most catastrophic event imaginable, where would you be? Use your inner voice to encourage you to move on.

8. Appreciate your relationships

Make a list of the great relationships that you have, both personally and professionally; write down what makes them special – remember, special, not perfect.  Take some time to remember when those relationships haven’t always gone smoothly, and think about times of conflict. What did it feel like? How did you resolve your issues, and what are your relationships like now? Know that even with people that you get on with very well, there have been moments of discord, and that you’ve got over it. It happens.

9. Focus your spotlight

Attempting to understand how others may have been feeling can help lessen the impact of the conflict. Putting yourself in another’s shoes can promote feelings of empathy that can take the sting out of what’s happened to you. When we empathise, we’re less likely to judge and condemn. It’s not about you, it’s about them and what caused their behaviour in the first place.

10. Smile

Smiling is a universal antidote to all kinds of misery. A smile softens other people and makes us feel better. A smile tells other people that they’re not so bad – and reaffirms to ourselves that we’re ok too. Which, in the long run, we will be.

How have you managed to develop resilience in your professional toolkit?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!


Susan Ritchie

Sue Ritchie is a coach and freelance trainer with 20 years experience in helping people to find out what makes them tick. When they do, she helps them to do more of it! She specialises in confidence and personal impact, working with individuals and teams to help them be confident, happy and successful in the workplace. She is also a speaker, facilitator and writer working on her first book. Sue can be found here and tweets at @susanjritchie

Be the change that you want to see. Step into your leadership.


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