5 Executive Presence Calming Strategies for the Moment You're Confronted

Your day is going well. You’ve done your research and are a maven on your project. You’re in a meeting and out of nowhere someone blindsides you with cynical inuendo, overt criticism, passive aggressive posturing or their personal agenda. Your body gets stiff. Your face feels flushed. Your heart is racing. A voice inside your head is screaming, ‘Danger!’ And then in your own defense you do or say something you later regret.

We’ve all been there.

Some people can weather these situations without losing their presence. Others cannot. The difference is that some people have trained themselves to be able to notice what is happening to them, both emotionally and physiologically, lean into it with curiosity as opposed to away in fear, and allow the immediate physiological and emotional response to subside so they can respond appropriately.

Initially, you may think you don’t have time for this transition to take place before you need to react. Like most things, with practice and technique you will see your role is not to defend yourself with a fight-flight-freeze mindset because then you’ve lost presence and are playing their game. Your job is to respond from a position of efficacy in a timely manner while maintaining your executive presence.

It is also worth noting that sometimes the feedback we receive can be helpful but our conditioning from previous situations may have our default state be a defensive one. This kills our ability to grow. These strategies help either way.


The Pause Café

P – Pause and take a very deep breath.

A – Ask yourself, “What’s going on with me? What am I afraid of? Where do I feel it in my body?”

U – Untangle the difference between your Assumptions and the Truth. “I will fail and embarrass myself” is an assumption. “I am prepared and those I respect support me” is the truth.

S – Step back and allow the constricted pinhole view of your world to open. Allow the negative feeling to flow by like purposefully laying a leaf on a rapid river.

E – Extend compassion to yourself. Put your hand to your heart and say, “May I be gentle with myself in this moment.” Then extend compassion to others. Imagine yourself in their shoes and get curious about their behavior. Name it. “I see that you are angry. How can I help?”


This is Just Me Feeling… 

  1. When you feel an intense emotion remind yourself, “This is just me feeling _________. (Lean in and name it to disarm its power. Feelings are not permanent.)
  2. Think of the many people in the world who must be feeling this same feeling at this very moment. Imagine being connected to each other in support of each other.
  3. Allow the moment to pass. 

Tune Into Stillness 

  1. Locate one object in the room that is perfectly still. Identify with it. Notice its texture, color, how it remains stationary and still among the chaos.
  2. Adopt its posture, its regal nature, its presence.
  3. With each in breath envision a connection between you both growing stronger. 

5-5-5 Calm 

  1. Slow your breathing by inhaling to a count of 5.
  2. Hold your breath for a count of 5.
  3. Exhale for a count of 5.
  4. Hold the exhale while you slowly say to yourself ‘Calm.’ 

Body Scan 

Scan your body for where you hold tension and release it. Systematically begin at the top of your head and move downward. Isolate each part of your body relaxing stiffness as you go – head, eyes, mouth, jaw, ears, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, chest, torso, stomach, intestines, hips, legs, feet. 

With practice you will be able to execute these strategies in the moment and with ease. 

If you want more executive presence tips here’s a link to Mary Lee’s FREE report: 31 Success Practices for Leaders in the High Stakes Corporate World. 

If you are struggling with uncertainty and feel exhausted and ineffective watch my FREE Training on Three Ways to Move to the Next Level In Your Career Right Now to 1) identify the right role for you, 2) position your transferable skills and 3) create a career portfolio that sells you before you even get an interview. If you don't know where you will be at the end of the year, you are already there.  

Your coach,

Mary Lee 

P.S. Feel free to forward this email to someone who could benefit from it. We are all walking down the same road in life looking for a hand to hold. Sometimes we are called to be the hand that reaches out. www.MaryLeeGannon.com  

Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE is an executive coach and 19-year corporate CEO who helps leaders have more effective careers, happier lives and better relationships. Request a free consultation call.

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