Presenting yourself as a creative professional comes with a special kind of pressure. You represent not only yourself, but your work. Not only will people examine your appearance and performance, but the things you create with your hands, heart and mind.
This aspect of being a creative professional comes with a heady combination of highs and lows. The thrills that come from the creation process come with a big dose of anxiety and vulnerability. How will others receive our work?
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Sometimes during a stressful pitch or negotiation, we feel overwhelmed. These meetings are important; they are critical for our future. But in extreme circumstances you may find that your vision narrows, ears pound, stomach gets upset or any number of other sensations. You might even find yourself with nothing to say. These feelings can happen to anyone.
Continuing the meeting and trying to suppress the feelings won’t work. The discomfort will likely return.
What works is taking direct action. If you need a minute to get your thoughts together, take a break from the discussion and say something like:
1. “I’ll just take a moment to think about this. I’ll be back in a minute.” Rise from your chair and leave the room.
2. “I need just a moment to compose myself.” This might get the other person to rethink his approach.
3. “Could we pause for a few minutes? I need a break.” This is always an option.
Know that you can excuse yourself. When you’re in the room and feel pressed, recognize that these anxious feelings are a signal to take action. If you’re not aware of this option and aren’t prepared to take it, the anxiety could take over and reduce your ability to deal with the situation, or worse, cause a breakdown.
Remember that to do your best for yourself, your client or potential employer, you must be at your best. In fact, taking a break honors the importance of the meeting. You’re doing it in the spirit of doing your best.
Once you are heading for the restroom, you’ll feel much better. The simple fact that you took action to regain control will make you feel better.
As your confidence returns, think of a few questions to use once you’re back at the table. Questions are another way to maintain your confidence. Questions will help you gain more control of the situation and demonstrate your interest. The break gives you a chance to restart and regain control of the encounter.
When you return to the meeting, you need to restart the conversation. You could say:
4. “I was surprised to hear you say _____. Could you explain further?”
5. “Is there a way we can work together to solve this?” With this one, you can enlist the other person’s help to get past the situation.
6. “Help me understand why it creates difficulty for you.” This is one of my favorite statements.
7. “Let’s try to think of ways to meet both our needs.”
All these questions use neutral language and are, obviously, in a spirit of mutuality. You will show your collaborative spirit. All of these questions are in the best interest of you and the other person. Best of all, they put you back in control. You’ll feel stronger, better and worthy of the other person’s consideration.
Have you been in a situation like this?
Ted Leonhardt is the owner/founder of TedLeonhardt.com, LLC. A version of this article originally appeared TalentZoo.com.