The plane began to free fall for at least three seconds but it felt like thirty.

Bumpiness under your seat and your stomach hit the back of your throat as you lurch back up again only to plunge for a few more seconds which feels like a minute. Just as we start to level off the captain comes over the loudspeaker to say “everyone please return to your seats” in the most panicked voice and tone I have ever heard a pilot use.

True story…just happened to me as I was flying first class from Detroit to New York City. The Captain sure didn’t sound calm, cool and collected as he held the collective futures of 100 or so people in his “stick” and not to mention the lives it would impact exponentially if the plane were to go down. In a time when we were looking for Captain Sully…we got Gilligan.

This one event got me thinking…in a moment of surprise, how do you sound? Does someone surprise you with something you were not expecting? Deadline bumped up a week by your boss and now you have to adjust to living on a call? Self admittedly….this has taken some training on my part to become better in these situations.

How have I become better? Let’s go over this together.  

First….your mind and your mouth. KNOW how to SHUT UP and not say the first thing that comes to your head. Take the information you’re being given in and practice being pensive. In most situations of negotiation, he who talks first loses. The worst thing you can do is blurt. Stopping just a moment allows you to collect your thoughts before engaging your mouth.

Second….your voice. Training on how to handle a tense situation is really hard to do unless you’ve been through it before. The best advice I can give is to role-play at your local Toastmasters. Call an industry friend and have them write up a few scenarios that could happen to you on the road. Now have these emailed not to you but to the Toastmaster at the meeting in advance and have them pass them out to the fellow Toastmasters to drill you with and see if you have the situation under control or if it’s Operation SNAFU.

Third…your body. Your body communicates sometimes MORE than what you say. Are you speaking with a furrowed brow, biting nails (bad habit) or shifting feet or worse yet pacing as you announce on the microphone? Practicing these announcements and situations in front of others can expose these bad habits and they can kindly let you know what you are REALLY communicating to your audience.

The truth may surprise you…and be open-minded enough to listen.

Next time a situation arises where everyone turns to you to be a rock and voice of reason you can confidently take on the challenge and come through with flying colors.

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