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Your reaction is your reputation: How to keep your cool when the heat is on

Handwritten Just breathe on sandy beach at sunset

I was at a dinner party recently with eight other Chicago women. My lawyer hosted it.

When one woman arrived (also a lawyer), she had a Starbucks in her hand and joked, “Who walks into a dinner party with her own coffee?” More on her in a second.

Last week, my toddler had a meltdown in Costco when I wouldn’t let her out of the shopping cart to walk around. I knew I couldn’t let her out to reward her behavior, but she got louder and louder. My husband and I quickly looked at each other, and quite honestly, I gave him the “I’m going to explode” look. And then, my daughter gave me a look that said, “What are you going to do now?” I was embarrassed but more frustrated at her lack of awareness that the store was packed and walking around was not the best option (I know, she’s three.). I took a deep breath. I need her to see healthy ways to handle stressful situations. I want to give her better coping mechanisms and stress management tools than I learned as a child.

I know how I react during stress is how my daughter will perceive me and, in her case, what she’ll copy.

Now back to my lawyer friend who walked into our dinner party with a Starbucks coffee. Two hours later, after the chef presented our main course, my friend mentioned quietly to the two women directly next to her at the table that she was jumping a man’s car before coming over and didn’t have time to shower, do makeup, etc. It only came up because we talked about how we could all make a more significant impact and show our kids how to help our community.

She didn’t walk into the party apologizing for her lack of makeup. She most definitely could have. She just arrived. Calm. With her coffee. It was only later that we heard there was an issue.

What a difference it would have made if she had rushed in dramatically, telling us the story and apologizing to the other women there.

Your reaction is your reputation.

Your reputation with your team, boss, friends, and your family.

Who’s watching you?

What will they remember about you during moments of stress?

People will remember you for who you are in moments of extreme stress. That’s why we have to own that our reaction is our reputation.

How do we prevent a big blow-up and keep our cool?

  1. Take a deep breath through your nose. Make the exhale longer. Use downregulation breathing.
  2. Take time to work out each day. Just MOVE your body.
  3. Put yourself in their shoes; ask yourself why are they coming at you? What might be happening for them that you don’t know? Find your common ground.
  4. Write your thoughts down to get them off your chest, then step away and give it 12 hours. If you think it still should be written, then send it.

We are judged in split seconds.

We can’t control that, but we can control how we show up in those moments.

What is your reputation?

Your team needs you to be a leader. But to be there for them, you must take care of yourself first. I’ll be back next week with more ways you can communicate with power no matter the situation.

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