top of page

How to Keep your Cool in Tough Situations

“I was interrupted mid-stream with a torrent of words – a finger angrily wagging in my face” is how a distraught colleague recently described a tough situation.

We’ve all been in situations that catch us off-guard, make us feel attacked, and cause us to involuntarily respond with fight, flight, or freeze. Picture a time when this happened to you. What was the cause? Had you dropped the ball, mismanaged expectations or perhaps there was just a difference in perspectives?

How did you respond? Did you rush into a defensive argument, apologize, or navigate your way to a mutually appeasing plan? Could your response have been better?

When we’re caught off-guard and put on the defense, we have an opportunity to handle the situation not only without causing significant damage to our relationship but also to shift it to result in a productive solution.

“When you react, you let others control you. When you respond, you are in control.” ― Bohdi Sanders, Martial Arts


  1. Pausing before replying. Take some deep breaths (repeatedly as needed!)

  2. Actively listen and ask clarifying questions to uncover what is the true reason for the attack (see my previous post on Active Listening for more tips).

  3. Play back what the concern is to demonstrate that you hear and understand it.

  4. When possible, ask for time to reflect and prepare your response based on the nature of the concern. If an answer is demanded ASAP, even taking 5 minutes to acquire any needed information from your team and collect your thoughts can help you facilitate a more solution-oriented discussion.


  1. Raising your voice in response

  2. Disrespecting, blaming or criticizing the other party

In writing this, I revisited a classic book that I strongly recommend reading or re-reading if it’s been awhile – Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People. His section on this topic is called “You Can’t Win an Argument” and the foundation of his tips is to check your own ego. The damage you’ll do is far greater than the pride you’ll have for winning an argument.

“The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.” ― Dale Carnegie

This doesn’t mean to roll over and let someone bully you or to admit to shortcomings that simply aren’t true. Maintaining your composure and demonstrating professional maturity provides an opportunity to think clearly and suggest follow up that not only satisfies all parties involved but can also earn respect from your colleagues.

Best of luck in your practice and please share your learnings and successes with me!

As the VP, Director of Client Services at Core-Rx Communications, I have over 16 years of experience leading talented healthcare communications teams to grow client brands and agency revenues.

The mission of WeInspireWe is to support and empower female leaders and this is consistent with what I’ve always tried to do with myself and my teammates.

In various management roles throughout my career, I’ve cherished:

  • Building teams that work towards one unified goal

  • Experiencing the sheer joy and pride that occurs when seeing my teammates realize their full potential

  • Helping my teammates navigate life changes with confidence and create harmony with work

What I find most gratifying is that people who I managed many years ago continue to use me as a sounding board and feel comfortable enough to reach out to me for both personal and professional advice.

Please connect with me! Don’t forget to include a note letting me know how you found me and why you’d like to connect.

94 views0 comments
bottom of page