Composure

“The state of being calm and in control of oneself.”

“Psychological stability.”

“Keeping cool under pressure.”

Check, check (kind of) and check. As I pore over definitions of what composure is, I started to wonder if I could skip this lesson. But then I found this…

“Composure is not letting your emotions become obstacles.”

Hmm…

I pride myself on the ability to manage my emotions. But in those moments when my emotions do arise – because I’m human, after all – composure becomes more difficult.

To determine how to improve upon my composure in those situations, I need to figure out what those situations are. When does calm, cool, and collected me get triggered? Thinking through my less-than-composed self through the last week, year, 5 years.. what is the thread between those situations?

During this exercise, I thought about a meeting in the past week where I felt less than composed, all the way back to when I was laid off from my very first job out of college, and everything in between.

Then it became clear: Not feeling or being heard. That’s my composure trigger.

All of the situations that sprung to mind were situations where I felt ignored, situations where I felt belittled, and situations where business decisions were made that affected me without including me. It’s liberating to make that connection and understand what actually makes me tick.

It’s good that I know what my triggers are, but what can I do about that? Do I revert to trying to get the last word in when someone isn’t listening? That’s not composure. When business changes are made that I have no control over, should I rebel? That’s not composure either.

If you’re like me, what can we do today, tomorrow and in the future to bring more composure into our triggers?

I need to remember there will always be someone who disagrees with me, may not like me (justly or not) and may, purposely or unintentionally, make me feel as though my voice isn’t heard or isn’t important. The more I (we) try to convince them otherwise, the more emotions take over and the less composure we’ll exhibit. Just stop, take a breath and move on.

Regarding difficult business decision, this article puts it best:

“Leaders shouldn’t take things personally when things don’t go their way – eventually it backfires. Business decisions and circumstances don’t always play out logically because office politics and other dynamics factor into the process. Don’t get defensive or think that you always must justify your thinking and actions when they do. When you take things personally, it’s difficult to maintain your composure and make those around you believe that you have things under control.”

I also recently heard someone say “any time you fight reality, reality will always win.” After I was laid off from my first job, 23 year-old Ashley spent days crying, going down rabbit holes as to what I may have done wrong, silently cursing my manager for being so unfair…but nothing was changing; I wasn’t getting my job back, I couldn’t fight that reality. Instead I was hurting myself, wasting valuable time dwelling on a situation that I couldn’t control, when I should have been working on my resume, networking and realizing the opportunity in the situation.

The lesson here again: Move on.

So how do I keep my composure when I’m triggered?

Don’t dwell. Let it go. Move on.

On that note, I’ll move on to Connection. ..


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