Stop being hijacked by your emotions.

Tuesday May 30th, 2017 in Ampersand Latest, Advisory

Mary and Jason were walking out of a client’s office after a difficult meeting. They felt exhausted after having worked on a complex proposal all week, staying late into the evening most nights, rehearsing the presentation multiple times and preparing for any difficult questions. They thought they had all bases covered. All went well until the end of the presentation when the client asked a tricky question. It took them both by surprise and, being unprepared for it, Mary and Jason stumbled over their response. As they walked out of the meeting room Mary quipped “we could have handled that better”. Jason lost his cool, became emotional, then defensive, and finally resorted to blaming her for the stumble. She was shocked. She is no pushover, and can stand her ground, but this outburst was unwarranted, in her view.

Mary could have lashed out at the injustice of his response but she kept her cool while remaining quietly and firmly assertive in her response. “Okay. That’s interesting you feel that way. I’m going to have to take some time to think about what you’ve just said and maybe we’ll catch up tomorrow to discuss this” she replied.

How could Mary have remained so calm? She can be an emotional person too, and had discussed how to keep her emotions in check with her mentor in previous situations when she lost her cool. Her mentor suggested she practice two key strategies. The first was to recognise that if you feel uncomfortable about a situation you don’t have to respond straight away – it’s fine to take time out to cool down the situation. Mary had never considered this before, but it made sense to take a break from a highly-charged situation. The second strategy was to put herself in Jason’s shoes for a moment and look at the situation from his perspective – why was he behaving in this way? Perhaps he misunderstood her intentions, perhaps he was over-sensitive to criticism that day, possibly he was sleep deprived after long hours in the office and being woken at 5:00 AM each morning by his young baby boy. This helped Mary develop a sense of empathy with Jason.

The next day they both reconvened to discuss what happened in a more rational and calm way – they talked through what went well that they should build on for any future presentations, and what went wrong from which they could learn. Mary offered to send an email to the client thanking them for their time, and clarifying the answer they had stumbled over the previous day. She also explained to Jason how she felt when he lashed out unfairly.  Jason apologised for his outburst, agreed with Mary that neither of them were individually to blame and promised to keep his emotions in check in future. Tackling the issue in this way enabled both of them to re-establish their positive working relationship and move forward.

The next time you feel like your emotions are about to take over try practicing these two techniques. Often taking time out even for a brief 10 minutes or so can break the tension and create a sense of calm. Developing empathy is also a much more powerful leadership behaviour than lashing out. With practice you’ll master the technique of keeping your emotions in check and develop a reputation for a mature leader who stays cool under pressure.









Norah Breekveldt


Job Search - Fresh Opportunities

Head of Business Development

(Feature Opportunity)

Leading Online Services Business Drive Strategic Sales & Account Management Drive the Customer Value Proposition A clear industry leader with a reputation for driving innovation and change across its business channels, our client presents an outstanding opportunity… Read More

Head of Marketing

(Feature Opportunity)

A unique career appointment exists for a senior marketing leader to join a growing organisation and shape change within Wealth and Capital Markets. Drive insights led marketing strategy for wealth and capital markets Inner city… Read More

Ampersand Latest

The year that was…

(Ampersand Latest)

Dear Diary, Let me start with a confession. I am not a natural writer. I am however a voracious reader, and admire people’s ability to pour their imagination onto paper and be creative and witty and keep… Read More

Ampersand International – Digital Forum

(In the News & Ampersand Latest)

Ampersand International hosted a Digital Forum with guest speaker Chaminda Ranasinghe at Melbourne’s Vue De Monde – attended by a select group of leading minds in digital and customer.  Chaminda heads up the Digital Sales… Read More

In the News

Brands Embracing Tech Have Happier Customers…

(In the News)

The search for the key to develop happier customers relentlessly continues on. In this article by CMO, Azadeh Williams writes, “World leading brands that maintain the highest level of customer experience satisfaction are more than twice… Read More

Jobs Growth And Rates – Interest Rates To Rise

(In the News)

David Rogers reports in The Australian, ” A further strengthening of Australia’s job market has backed official forecasts of faster economic growth reinforcing economists expectations that wages growth will recover enough to allow the Reserve… Read More

Your Ampersand

Through understanding & authenticity we connect people with people, people with brands, people with possibility. Our clients & candidates feel optimistic, proud & valued.

We seize the opportunity to be your brand advocates because we know leadership when we see it.

Contract Resources Register with us Client Enquiries

Our event program

Ampersand’s quarterly event series exists to provide our client and candidate network with insightful, inspiring and challenging topics relevant to leadership, business of tomorrow, innovation and entrepreneurship.

If you’re interested in attending or speaking at an Ampersand event, please get in touch with Leah Towers
on 03 9008 5101 or



Learn More