agent of arcadia

Three ways to manage nerves in a feedback conversation

In Collaboration, Communication, Inspire, Leadership, Performance Management on May 31, 2016 at 1:42 am


Let’s face it. There are aspects about our jobs that we love and then there are aspects about our jobs that we don’t. Any job. Things we look forward to. And things we don’t.

Like feedback conversations. Nobody looks forward to those. Whether you’re a manager, leader, or coach who has to deliver the feedback, or whether you’re the one who is on the receiving end.

But what is it about feedback conversations that make us uncomfortable? Is it the thought of having to deliver news to someone about what they did that sounds like you’re telling them off, as if they are a child who did something wrong?

Or is it the nerves that hit you just before you’re about to have the conversation that suddenly render you incompetent and fighting to find the right words, or to fill the space when you are met with silence from the receiver that causes you to fumble over more words and approach the situation with verbal vomit?

Feedback conversations don’t necessarily need to be uncomfortable experiences. Nor do they necessarily need to be filled with awkward silence.

But how do you start to deal with your nerves and the emotions that manifest as a result of those nerves? Let’s look at three very basic but powerful ways you can manage nerves and emotion.

Effectively gain mindfulness

Ever heard the phrase ‘the voices in my mind’? When nerves hit, something strange happens in our minds. We hear voices. And they all seem to be speaking at the same time, needing immediate attention. Known as mind chatter, these voices manifest as an endless, restless stream of incomplete thoughts, anxieties, and negative self-talk which are relentlessly barrelling with determination through our minds. The only way to stop it is to, well, stop it and regain control of your mind.

To do this, you need to shift your focus on a singular thought that can reshape your thinking. I like to use the words ‘I am’. It’s a simple but exceptionally powerful phrase. The power lies in the fact that you can add any adjective or verb after it to make your sentence whole. And you have absolute power over what that sentence says. Indeed, the beauty lies in its simplicity. Simple ones to use in the instance of a feedback conversation, for example, are ‘I am calm’ or ‘I am positive’ or ‘I am collaborating’.

Breathe deeply

When we become nervous, we experience excessive stress. When this happens, our bodies start to do funny things, like have heart palpitations, even though we are completely healthy. And our brains begin to slowly space out and go into shut down, even though we are completely knowledgeable. This has nothing to do with how healthy and knowledgeable we are but more due to the lack of oxygen reaching these areas.

But did you know that three deep breaths can reduce your heart rate by up to one third, thereby reducing the manifestation of nerves, such as sweating, heart racing and fidgeting?

Start with a deep breath from the diaphragm. To do this, breathe deeply into your abdomen. This starts to control your breath, and allows your voice and mind to then work freely. To know if you’re doing this right, place your hand on your stomach and breathe into that area. You’ll start to notice your abdomen moving against your hand. You’ll also start to feel yourself calm down and be able to think more clearly.

You’ll also be so focused on the breathing technique that it will distract you from being nervous!

Pay attention to your posture

Dancers and ballerinas are constantly in training to stay upright in extremely tough positions. Every move is executed with the core in mind, their centres of balance. Their perfect postures are almost unparalleled.

And there’s something to be said about good posture. Apart from allowing you to be graceful, it automatically transforms how you look, how you feel, and how you come across to anyone looking at you or communicating with you. You appear more confident and productive, more presentable and professional, and certainly more attentive and ready.

This will evoke a sense of respect for what you have to say with the anticipation that you will also listen.

To ensure good posture, even when sitting, imagine a piece of string attached to your coccyx, (also known as your tailbone) that runs through each of the vertebrae of your spine pulling you in a relaxed and upright position, going through your head and out the top of your skull.

This position enables you to breathe deeply to manage any tension you may feel in a difficult conversation, such as a feedback conversation. This ability to breathe deeply also enables you to practise effective vocal techniques, because naturally you start to speak and project your voice from your diaphragm. This means your voice is more stable and resonates at a lower tone, giving it that calm, professional edge.

From this position, you are also better able to engage in matching the energy of the other party with greater ease. And you’re also better equipped from this position to engage in the deep breathing technique we touched on earlier to assist in the management of any nervous tension within your body.

Start these habits now

You don’t have to wait for a feedback conversation, or even a challenging, tough or difficult conversation to start executing some of these moves. Adopting them into your daily activity will ensure that when you do need to have such a conversation, you will already be ready!

Copyright © agentofarcadia 2016


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