How to Avoid Freezing in Hot Moments
THE FIRST BOOK GIVEAWAY of 2020!
20 copies available!!
Leave a comment on this guest post by Mikaela Kiner to become eligible for one of 20 complimentary copies of her book, Female Firebrands: Stories and Techniques to Ignite Change, Take Control, and Succeed in the Workplace.
(Deadline for eligibility is 1/10/2020. International winners will receive electronic versions.)
We’ve all experienced a hot moment.
It happens when someone says something inappropriate, makes an off-color joke, or commits a micro-aggression. Whether you’re the target or a bystander, you freeze. Ten minutes later you’re thinking of all the things you wish you’d said.
Most people know about the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome. Freeze is a third and common reaction to uncomfortable situations.
How to avoid freezing in hot moments
- Reflect. Write down what (or who) makes you freeze. Do you have a boss who yells in meetings? Maybe it’s a coworker who constantly interrupts. Make a note of the last three to five situations where something caused you to freeze.
- Create a plan. What do you wish you had said? How do you want to show up next time? Let’s assume you want to stick up for yourself. You also want to remain composed and professional.
- Prepare. It’s easier to respond effectively if you don’t have to think on your feet. Find a few phrases that work for you. Practice out loud. Now your response is ready when you need it.
I had a boss who was a yeller. When he yelled, I froze. Then I formed a plan – I would leave the room the next time he raised his voice. When I stood up to leave, he took a deep breath and collected himself. He did not yell. In that moment I regained my sense of power and confidence.
All you need is a short, genuine response. Curiosity helps. For instance:
- “I didn’t find that funny.”
- “I’m surprised to hear you say that.”
- “Can we pause for a second?”
Remember, you can’t control another person’s behavior but you’re 100% in charge of your own.
What suggestions do you have for dealing with hot moments?
MIKAELA KINER is an experienced HR / People Operations professional, founder/CEO, and executive coach. In 2015, Mikaela founded Reverb, creating healthy, inclusive culture in startups and growing companies in the Pacific Northwest. Mikaela is married to Henry, a musician, artist, and teacher. Their two children, Simon and Sidonie, are good at challenging the status quo and are a constant source of learning and laughter.
This is a great strategy, especially for the start of a new year. Having reflective practice, especially towards weaknesses will push for growth in your profession. Having sample phrases will work great in instances like this but also in preparing for hard to discuss conversations in the workplace.
Great article and advice!
Freezing, in the hot moment, isn’t bad … It’s a breath.
Genuine laughter, in the next, redirects everyone’s lock down response, whether fight, flight or freeze.
A calm, cool and direct, “THAT’s not acceptable.” unleashes everyone’s curiousity, especially as to, “What’s not acceptable?”
By then, you can figure out which behaviour and issue have been co-opted to suit the abuser’s (of trust, if nothing else) emotional purpose- and make a point of it.
Works with children, and with adults acting childishly.
And makes enabled bullies furious … which I find very curious. 🙂
Never take it personally, even if meant that way;
their behaviour says everything about them, and nothing about you … even if you “triggered” it.
Thumbs down must be from a bully
(no longer enabled?).
I have used the phrase ” Let me think about this and then I can respond.” with the response often coming days later. The emotions involved often dilute or even change the intended message and need time to be disfused.
I would love to be considered for receiving a free copy of this book !
I would appreciate a copy of this book. I use the phrase “Help me to understand”
When someone tells me to have a good day, I respond with the truth: I am the only one who can make it miserable!
This is incredibly helpful especially the part about developing and planning for a few key phrases that feel authentic to you and that you are able to access when you find yourself in a “hot moment.” The key is not to avoid the “hot moments” or shun them but to move towards them or hope they happen. This will allow you to build necessary muscles to respond appropriately while staying true to your moral compass. Thank you! I would also love to receive a free copy of this book!
In today’s world of more teleworking, do the same rules apply when reading your boss’s email that are “managing you?
I can find it difficult to respond in those “hot moments” and I feel my cheeks start to burn but I’ve found a phrase that works well for me: “Wow, I wasn’t expecting that. Let’s both take a moment to pause”. This gives both people an opportunity to reframe the conversation and reminds me that I don’t have to (and can’t) fix everything.
This is really useful information. I sometimes struggle with the line of assertive or aggressive and I like the idea of just saying can we take a time out. That pause gives you the time to think instead of react.
Happy New Year, Dan! I have been enjoying your blogs for years and this one resonates with me as I have had frozen moments throughout my career. Thank you for sharing some phrases that could calm the situation. I have a tendency to flee – like in the example. I usually don’t have a phrase that I turn to, I just sit quietly until the other person has finished. Mikaela’s book sounds very interesting to me!
I Love this post! I wish I had Mikaela‘s book already, to read more about this topics. Crossing my finger to be one of the lucky 20 and /or receive the ebook.
Question… is Mikaela available also as a private coach? I’d like to connect with her. It’s just what I’m currently looking for 🤗
Great advice to be proactive to solve this problem!
Thank you for all the helpful advice you provide on a daily basis. I utilize your strategies during coaching sessions with staff and for my own self growth as a leader. I would love a copy of this book.
Once I was told about an unprofessional, personal attack on me made by a co-worker in a meeting. I was shocked as I was unaware of any issues between us. I knew I wanted to let the other person know I heard what they said, but also wanted to be able to work and interact with the person moving forward. I took a few days to prepare myself and then asked to meet with my co-worker. I started by saying: “I’ve always felt very comfortable with you, just chatting about work, the weather, simple family things, etc. (the other person agreed)….so I need you to help me understand why you made this comment….”, and then proceeded to repeat the statement. I wanted two things to happen: 1) let the person know I was aware of their comment; and 2) wanted to be able to walk away from the conversation with both of us feeling we could see each other the next day and not be uncomfortable. Taking the time to cool off and to prepare how the conversation would go was hard, but well worth it.
Great short responses. I will definitely use these!
This is great advice! There is a new person in my organization that I find extremely challenging … she treats me as if I have no idea what I’m doing despite the fact that I’ve held leadership positions in my area of expertise for the past 5 years. What makes this even more challenging is that she has a title that is two levels above me. Having a handy response would be helpful for me. I will give this some thought. My general tendency is to seek to understand but with this particular person, asking questions appears to make me look even more incompetent.
I’ve experienced many situations where I’ve froze; many of them while I’m in my boss’ presence. Having a plan of what needs to be said and/or done has helped me minimize the stress and pressure to act more naturally or confidently.
I’d love to receive a copy of “Female Firebrands: Stories and Techniques to Ignite Change, Take Control, and Succeed in the Workplace”
I really like the “can we pause for a minute.” It seems in today’s world we’re already prepping the response and ready to run onto the “next thing.” Sometimes “less” can be “more.”
The last time I was in this situation I was caught off guard by a very senior team member’s response. My face flushed, the blood drained, and I felt helpless. I would love learning how to cope in situations like this, and considered to receive a copy of Mikaela’s book.
The featured quote is a keeper! So simple, yet so true!
This is the first time I have heard the term micro-aggression. I recently had a situation in which a manager said something really inappropriate that was directed at me but referred to as a “people” issue.
It is very challenging to be caught in these moments and respond appropriately. My initial response may be to react in kind, which is seldom a useful response. Thanks for the thoughts and suggestions on how to better deal with these situations. I especially like the get up and leave the room- that’s such a strong statement of what you will tolerate.
I’ve never thought about planning a response…only reflected on the “should have saids” after the fact. Great strategy.
Common issue and powerful suggestions. Unfortunately, we encounter this bad behavior more often that I would like. Another great post Dan!
I found this extremely helpful! I am the one who, after a situation, reflects and thinks “I should have said….” This is also my first time hearing the term micro-aggression. Thank you for the plan of action.
Thanks for sharing strategies to unfreeze the moment. I work with teachers and they often struggle with adult conflict. Coaching them to incorporate a short phrase might help them navigate the emotional moment towards a calm moment. That creates opportunity for discussion or resolution.
I have the same issues when people yell at me. I either freeze or start talking very fast. I really need to read this book and find out how to deal with this issue. If you still have a complimentary copy of Mikaela Kiner book, I would appreciate it if you would send it to me. I pray that it will help reading and absorb its content.
Excellent advice. Would enjoy reading other strategies in the book.
In response to microaggressions or other inappropriate comments, I have begun asking “can you tell me what you mean by that comment” or “wow, that comment makes me feel xxxx”. These are not perfect, but I do feel better if I don’t allow these types of things to pass by without comment
Good article. Important to remember that we can only control how we react to others.
Great advice to start off a new year! Would love to read in further detail from the book.
I would like to learn new techniques.
Best advice! I have been struggling with this and know this is something I need to work on. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Definitely need to look into this book!
I guess I am fortunate that this is not a common situation I find myself in. However, realizing it is out there and preparing for it (reading and replying here) is great advice. I would say when put in these situations, Old Mike would always amp up the situation and immediately go into fight mode. New Mike, courtesy of mentoring advice, tries to listen more and nor reactively respond. Adding the ‘Can we pause..’ to my playbook.
“Freezing” in difficult situations is one of the aspects of my leadership that I struggle most to overcome. I like the very simple but powerful suggestion of having a couple of key phrases at the ready to use in those moments! Thanks for a great article.
Freezing has always been my go to reaction – there are a few problems with that, one of which is that you could potentially be seen as aloof. My new go to is to say “OK” very slowly to try to diffuse the situation and to try to give myself time to think how the situation should be addressed.
One thing that I would caution is using “I” statements when responding to a hot moment. Talking about how you were impacted can be much more powerful than ‘sticking up’ for someone else.
Short and sweet advice – right on point. I also struggle with freezing in certain situations when I feel on the spot. My mind empties and I come up with a whole list of things I “should” have said later on. I like the idea of the phrases!
This is great advice. I love having tools in my pocket to pull out when in sticky situations. It’s always better to be prepared. I know I definitely am a freezer and after the fact think, “I should have said….. or done…..”
Great approach to difficult situations without escalating the stress or situation. As a introvert, I find having a plan ahead of time, such as the phrases recommended help me to response quickly and positively and not through my frustration.
Great advice. I love the can we pause for a second one because it should make the speaker take a moment to self reflect.
I find the idea of leaving that was used in the example interesting, however how do you balance the need for professionalism on your own end in that scenario? Flight may not appear to be a professional response to a leadership team.
Take a deep breath and count to 10. Think of a happy/calm memory.
Good sound advice that can be easily applied in the workplace. I had a boss once who would yell at staff and I wholeheartedly agree with Mikaela Kilner that the best thing to do is to walk out of the room. It is a quick and easy way to diffuse the situation.
I love the short “curiosity” statements idea!
I have to read this book! I get so upset as a business woman when I freeze in personal or professional settings. I would also love to use this as a book club feature for my women’s group at work!
Pingback: How to Avoid Freezing in Hot Moments | General News
very on point discussion. I was a little put off by the title sounding like female leader’s need, while we all need to better understand and take ownership of our responses and facilitate meaningful conversations with our team members.
Whenever something is done to me I freeze, but if it happening to someone else, I feel empowered to step in. I’ve started asking myself, how would I step in if I saw this happening to someone else. I’m not perfect and sometimes I still freeze, but I’m working on it. I like the suggestions above.
I too had a boss who was (and still is I’m sure) a workplace bully! Abusive is the more appropriate term. However, any response, or absolutely no response only moved him to continue until HE wanted to terminate the conversation!
Great things to remember! Write it down, form a plan. Use it!
Great idea …thanks for giving a sample plan
Great topic – thanks for the giveaway!
I wish I had a nickel for every time I wish I had said what I was thinking 10 minutes later in those Hot moments. Thanks for reminding me about controlling my own behavior. It is true you behavior can effect others behavior so keep it smart and professional to get the best results.
Great advice to remind us that we own our actions/reactions.
Mindfulness is my ‘word’ of 2020, and I love how Ms. Kiner uses reflection as a strategy to help be mindful of what triggers ‘freezing in hot moments’, planning to help develop a strategic way forward, and practice to help ingrain the ‘prepared remarks’ for readiness. Great stuff – I will absolutely put this book on my 2020 reading list! 🙂
Instead of freezing, I often blurt something out. I’ve been working on being more mindful and thinking before I speak. As with most things, I’m a work in progress… Very interested in this book!
I have been in this position before. Over the years, I have found that what works for me is to breathe and understand that whatever I do next will determine how the remainder of the interaction will end up. With that said, I try to respond in a manner that won’t be taken offensively by the other party but will get my point across that the behavior that has caused me to freeze is not acceptable. Still working on my reactions to situations that cause me to go into freeze mode, but can only get better with practice.
This is great advice. I believe often times I am a “freezer”, and so this spoke to me.
Interesting comments on what to do. I see if as “be calm”, “be confident”, and don’t let your mouth get ahead of your mind. But then again telling my 23 year old self this 40 years ago I probably would have not understood or accepted it.
Freezing during one of “those” moments can create that deer in the headlights look that sends a message to others that they have control of your emotions. Don’t let it happen. Thanks for your suggestions.
You have a lot of followers on the east coast! I need to get up or stay up to be more competitive for the give away items. This is a great post that I am sharing with my whole team. We are having our Goal Progression discussions this week and next and interpersonal development is a key item. I have heard many folks say they don’t feel empowered to control situations, however, the examples provided here as well as many of the suggestions in the conversation string have provided me with great points to share with them. Thank you – I love you blog!
I love the short responses and with a little thought everyone can add a few that feel genuine to them.
i had a friend in high school that would always make cutting remarks about my clothes or my hair or something about me in front of a group-my mother came up with this retort for me and once I said it to her she stopped doing this to me ” why thank you Barbara, do you have any more kind and diplomatic remarks for me”. It was a show stopper! I said it calmly and quietly to her with a smile on my face! It worked!!!
I just left an organization where this occurred regularly with an inappropriate leader. We had several conversations about to how to stand up for ourselves and others. I’m sending this to my old coworkers and hopefully it helps them take back some power. Thanks for sharing.
I have had a coworker who used to yell or call people down or generallybe negative… I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time but I had made a plan, and the next time she start down her regular path of calling people down I kindly reminded her that people don’t respond well when their leaders talk like that and she’d be smart to remember that while she’s building her team. I have my power and while I’m around at least she’s rather pleasant 👌
Can’t tell you how many times I have froze in difficult situations. Thank you for the tips to make a plan, and identify the situations which freezing can happen. Would love to learn more.
I am one who needs to think about what to say. So having a few phrases prepared is great advise.
I once said to a boss who was being a complete bully and trying to gaslight me, “Just because you think that’s true doesn’t mean it is.” I got up and walked back to my desk. Two minutes later, I needed to ask him a question about a conference. I could tell he had steam coming out of his ears, but he didn’t have a reasonable response. I was pleasant while I got my question answered and went back to my desk. I think a lot of the time it’s important to respectfully rise above.
i would love to be able to read this.
I have found that a gently raised hand, all finger spread apart, and the palm slightly angled towards the floor is my physical cue for “lets pause” right here. During a confrontation or “hot moment” this physical cue plays two important roles. First, a physical gesture breaks the attention of the speaker, second, it make you move…this creates an opportunity to breath, collect your thoughts, then speak. It really works well especially when dealing with overly agitated people.
Great advice here. In the “practice” part, it’s also great to pair up with someone to give yourself a chance to hear your words out loud. It makes it more real, and can give you more confidence for when you approach the person.
I completely resonate with this. I have a staff member who makes sometimes inappropriate comments in public, and I freeze because it just sets me on fire!! I’ve really learned to stop and remind her of how she comes across to people, instead of saying nothing and letting it continue. It has gotten better. Thanks for the further tips.
Like Lincoln, sometimes we need to “stuff the letter in the drawer” and never send it. Reflection is critical in leadership, for sure. Great post. Thank you!
I have two spinner rings with the serenity prayer on them and use them daily to remind myself I don’t have control over most things. Keeps me focused on what I can control.
Sometimes you have to realize that no matter what happens you can’t change their behavior. You may have to leave a negative or hostile organization for your health.
Tolerating the behavior should never be the only option!
I’ve been in several meetings where my boss yelled & took down a colleague in front of all of us. None of us knew what to do, lowered our heads & said nothing. We never knew when he might turn on another of us. Although I know what to say with colleagues & those I manage, Directing up is hard. Believe planning for it would have made a difference. Standing up & leaving the room sounds doable & non-confrontational. Looking forward to more tips! Great blog today!
I’m very interested in reading more ways to deal with interruptions and long-talkers. Please pick me 🙂
Oh I so needed this. I have a coworker that this happens regularly and I need a plan. I as so many come up with a comeback or plan after it all happens. I have walked out of the meeting. But I cannot continue to do that. I need a different plan. I dread meetings with this person. She makes life quite miserable. Thanks for the offer. I would love to win this book, but if I don’t win it I will buy it. It needs to be in my library.
By the Dan Thanks for all your bring everyday. I always look forward to your posts. I gain insight from them no matter the topic. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.
This is a helpful reminder- both in personal and professional environments! It’s true and good practice for both those times you find yourself freeze and when you have to go have an uncomfortable conversation. Let go of those things you can not control and control what you can – which is you. While challenging, the more we can get ourselves to that point, we will find ourselves in a much better outlook.
And remember not to take it personally! The flight, fight or freeze response is exacerbated by high emotion – so the extent to which you can control your emotion will determine how quickly you can get back to effective response mode.
The short phrases to use are extremely helpful and easy to keep in mind – thank you! Additionally, if the situation happens in a meeting or group when it can be even more difficult to feel like you can speak up, the “Can we pause for a second” may build confidence in others to speak up as well – a commonality is formed and less concern about being singled out or feeling like the only one. Others also then learn how to handle future hot moments more easily.
Great guest post! This can be a cultural and personality issue. Most people I know (from Latin America and the USA) tend to think this may lead to confrontations and that is why they freeze. From my experience with relatives, friends, students and coworkers, in order to follow Mikaela´s advise, people have to stop thinking about “what will I do if this gets me into a confrontation with other people?”. I have always thought the opposite. How can you gain respect, confidence, self-esteem, and buid your reputation if you do not draw the line of respect and stop unsolicited comments / advice / derision / disbelief?
I found these to be great suggestions. I have an employee that I supervise that likes to get quite hateful and stirs up a lot of negative emotions within the office at times. Being human, we want to “react” when these things happen, but as a manager, I know very well it’s important I don’t. What I tend to use with this person is motivational interviewing techniques. I pause for a second and take a deep breath and then ask open ended questions about why they are expressing things the way they are and try to determine what the real problem is and what solutions can come from it. It’s not an easy thing to do, because almost always I immediately want to freeze in that situation, and I have to have a full fledge conversation with myself in a matter of seconds, in my head, to prevent myself from reacting and being appropriate. Great post and great suggestions!
Thank you for the advice —- amazing what happens in the heat of the moment. Preparation (much like everything else in life) enables us to be proactive for what could happen instead of being reactive when something that would make you “freeze” occurs. I’ve always looked at myself as someone who would fight instead of flight but introducing this third principle allowed me to reflect on situations where I would freeze and feel one-down from the “perpetrator”. Thank you again Dan.
This is something that our team talks about from time to time. We’ve developed a culture in our group to be inclusive and honest, even if that includes being direct. Having that understanding in place up front really empowers us as individuals to speak up when we are in situations outside the team and face uncomfortable situations.
Good post! I have a really bad habit of freezing when I feel even the slightest bit of aggression. The crazy thing is, I know that everyone in the organization is on my side but it doesn’t seem to matter 🙁 When things get heated, I freeze, then I get frustrated because, with a frozen leader, meetings seem to spiral out of control. I thing I’ve learned to do when questioned is to say, “that’s a really good question! What do you think?” This deflates the aggression and gets everyone actually thinking instead of simply reacting out of emotion. I really like the suggestion of just saying, “can we pause for a bit?” It just gives everyone a bit of time to think and get back into thinking mode instead of reaction mode.
Wow. This is great for me and my daughters! Thanks
This is a great article that I plan to share with my team. Everyone is caught off guard at one time or another, I love the suggestions and will definitely be working on my responses for potential situations.
Hot moments can be sneaky. I like to center with breathing before going into a knowingly hot moment.
I’m definitely non-confrontational in those situations. Luckily they are not often.
Hot moments are tough and something I continually work on, either with my staff or other managers. My brain doesn’t often respond as quickly as I would like. I love the idea of having a prepared statement to allow me to take a breath and catch up! When I do respond, I find that people are often surprised because I am mostly quiet in these types of situations, but that isn’t fair to me or those around me. 2020 is the year I am finding my voice!
The article applies to work and to broader life. I am curious what the books suggests “female firebrands” do in environments where they are demeaned on the basis of their gender. Think work environments dominated by men or spiritual communities who view themselves as justified in limiting a woman’s roles.
For me, it’s less about freezing and more about not having a knee-jerk response. I have spent a great deal of time this year working on just that – measured, timely, and appropriate responses in stressful or “triggered” moments. The techniques listed though, can be applied to this type of reactivity as well! (It just starts with “PAUSE”.)
Great and relevant post! We observe incredibly uncivil behavior not only in the workplace, but especially in social media. Having rehearsed responses is important. I’d add that it would be worthwhile to have categories of rehearsed responses for various circumstances. Knowing your “enemy” is key to whether a response serves to escalate or diffuse a tense situation. Having a secure sense of worth, value, and identity provides a foundation for weathering or responding to inappropriate, demeaning, rude, or offensive remarks in any setting.
I love the reminder at the end, that the only person we can control the behavior of is ourself. Great plan for coming up with strategies ahead of time for how I want to react.
I totally concur. It is amazing how after many years of working with multiple individuals in a department where employees and managers are role models to the clients, situations arise which are shocking, unfamiliar and one has never realized the skills one uses as a model to clients need also to be exercised with employees and colleagues. As a goal to be a supportive manager requires coaching, the example identified above speaks exactly to options we as human being have. I like the reference to fight/flight/freeze! A new way to look at it and empower ourselves.
I had a former superior who could be quite aggressive and blunt. I found that once I answered honestly , without backpedaling that they became more receptive. They wanted someone to be blunt and honest with them instead of telling them what they wanted to hear. I feel that many times we need to not be afraid of healthy conflict. If someone says something that generates that “hot moment” determine if this is the appropriate place to have this conversation and if not, is it something that can wait. I recently had to deal with a situation where I heard that hot moment and we took a break shortly thereafter. I talked to my associate in private and when I pointed out the comment, they owned it and apologized for the comment to the group.
It’s awful to reflect later about what you should’ve said. I’m a believer in speaking up. Sometimes people don’t realize how they affect others. Great post.
This is such a great and relevant topic. I had a direct report who I was in a heated discussion with recently, and I found that one of the most important strategies for me is to control my physical reaction. I have learned to take a breath, to not feel the need to immediately respond with words, but to allow the conversation to develop has helped me tremendously. In this instance, I actually acknowledged that it was a heated discussion and I thought it best for us both to take a breath and have a second conversation within the next few hours. When we both came back to the discussion, he acknowledged jumping the gun emotionally, and we were able to move forward beyond it. I found that it actually has strengthened our relationship and how we work together by having a crucial moment to work through. Would love a copy of this book to learn more about your philosophies!
This strategy is so helpful. Wish I had been able to practice it years ago when my female boss yelled at me (and everyone else) abruptly and often, and enjoyed interrupting us in the middle of tasks. One day I had had enough and swept everything off my desk, raising my voice that I had had enough. Surprisingly, she lowered her voice and said “Wait, wait, let’s figure this out.” I did not want to engage in that behavior, so soon after I left that job. Would loved to have known and used the calming statements and strategies!
Do you think there is an Empathy Gap when we freeze similar to the Empathy Gap the individual could be having when they go into a hot state causing a Freezing state?
Great advice from a female leader. I especially appreciate the encouragement to rehearse response. This helps immensely in those moments that physiologically intense.
Great advice from a female leader. I especially appreciate the encouragement to rehearse response. This helps immensely in those moments that physiologically intense.
Thank you for stating that ‘freeze’ is a third response. The notion that I prepare in advance for the next time I’m caught in a freeze (there will be a next time) nearly made me freeze again. That made me think back to Crucial Conversations though – and that there doesn’t have to be a negative outcome (and that’s what the whole preparation is intended to avert). I believe I need to practice out loud on my own and with the right intentions at heart for this individual, respectfully deliver so we both come away winners. Thank you for this – I will not soon forget.
I really appreciate the thought of asking to pause. I frequently ask to reserve the right to think before rapid fire response. It always yields a higher quality response. I also think it models that it is ok to step back and circle back. Healthy, in fact.
I freeze all the time and later, reflect and wish I had said something different. This exercise is perfect and one I plan to put to use!
Great advice! Heading into a new job, so this was super helpful!
Absolutely relevant and on point for both business and for personal interactions and so hard sometimes to gracefully and tactfully work through these situations. I would love a copy of her book to learn more!
The sample phrases are helpful, and I agree that making a plan and rehearsing is a solid approach.
Great strategy for a proactive life.
Hi there, these are great concepts for anyone to try and see which works best for them. As someone who doesn’t like confrontation, I mean who does? I completely freeze and over analyze to the point of increased levels of anxiety. So in effect I am often more damaged by the experience than who-or-what caused me to freeze in the first place! This book is at the top of my “2020 with clarity” intentions.
This is a great strategy and a long time in coming. We have all suffered some form of freezing, and Ms. Kinear’s approach is refreshing. Thank you for sharing.
I don’t think I’ve heard the term “Female firebrand” before. I LOVE it! In my current role, I am a change agent and as you can imagine, I’ve ruffled a few feathers and taken a fair amount of direct heat from senior management, peers and subordinates when attempting to influence change. I will use these helpful tactics to avoid “freeze” moments going forward.
This is great advice. It’s hard to come up with a quick response in a tense situation, so it makes sense to prepare in advance.
Great information – reminds me of a funny thing that happened to me. I had a Business Director who very aggressively criticized my position on something and demanded I defend it. I replied that I had explained my rationale and we were not going to agree on this. I stood up to depart and he said, You can not leave, if I you do who will I fight with? I said, Not me, and kept walking.
This was very timely for me… my husband yells and swears while doing his work at home when he is frustrated. For soooo long I have tried to ignore it but it makes me very uncomfortable. FInally last night I’d had enough and I said to him as I left the room, “Your screaming and swearing are very offensive to me. I’ve asked you to stop and you don’t. This is not acceptable so you should move to the basement to work if you can’t control this.” That is huge for this passive woman! He tried to remain quiet the rest of the day…. old habits are hard to break. To prepare in advance is a great idea.
When I first started out as a young professional in my field, I would freeze up constantly whenever I encountered a hot moment, particularly whenever my authority was challenged. I soon learned to prepare in advance by practicing responding to possible scenarios, as well as learning techniques to defuse tense situations. Kiner seems to offer good advance and I will incorporate these techniques into my responses should I find myself in any hot moment situations in the future.
Wow! A strategy to develop communication skills more beneficial than ‘in your own head’ hindsight! I regularly have these ‘I should have / could have said’ conversations with myself, not realising that planned responses and actions can resolve frustration and positively change behaviours in myself and others. A lot more effective than my current way of dealing with hot moments, which is to go for a walk around the block. It gives me a moment to reflect, but doesn’t change anything. That walk time could be better spent planning and practicing what to say and do. Most excellent concept…. now to learn the how to!
I too am a freezer in those situations. I agree, those moments shouldn’t go unchallenged. My problem is, I have to think about what to say and have a delayed reaction. I appreciate the suggestion to have ready-made responses for the situations. Good luck with your book – it sounds like a great read!
I have recently subscribed to this blog. Thank you for the valuable ideas in the article and in the numerous comments. In these situations I find myself either freezing or talking too much to cover up the awkwardness of the moment. I have found using “Help me to understand…’ works the best in many instances, but need to work on adding to my bank of phrases.
I struggle with freezing at the wrong moments, and even if I don’t freeze, sometimes I struggle to fully ferret out in the moment what is wrong with something being said. Very timely post!
Luckily, I have always been able to openly question when I hear something being said that’s not correct. It’s something I’ve gotten comfortable with as I matriculated in my career
Very practical tips for handling emotionally charged situations. I’d [positively] challenge the title of the article, specifically the apparent need to “avoid freezing” altogether as it ‘s a perfectly normal reaction. As the author suggests, responding with phrases like “I’m surprised to hear you say that” can help melt the freeze and raise awareness of the impact of what has been said. Add a little curiosity with an open-ended question like “What did you mean by that?” can help melt away further misunderstanding.
Would love a copy of the book!
Great tips that I can’t wait to put into practice!
Great tips. I would add the importance of noticing how your body responds in the moment. Often the mental freeze is triggered by a physical sensation, the embodiment of the fight/flight/freeze response. Being able to notice the sensations in the moment can help you work through the uncomfortable feelings and respond.
Great advice, would love to receive a copy of the book.
Great advice and a helpful strategy that I will use!!
Thanks for the advice and suggested responses. It’s helpful to be able to “buy time” and to raise the issue or preserve your objection/question/inquiry, rather than to respond with premature response that may be regretted later; i.e., can’t unring the bell.
Great advice about practicing a response for those frozen moments. One of my “go to” responses for those situations that almost always catch you flat-footed… “Wow!” Sometimes it’s just enough to let the offender know the comment was out of bounds.
Pingback: How to Avoid Freezing in Hot Moments - Leader's Minute
Well, another thing I learned about myself, why I simply watch bad behavior directed at me like a scientist—its like watching a zoo animal, with fascination and pity. As an introvert, wild display of emotions is uncomfortable so I’ve compensated by distancing myself from the emotional pull, and after the storm is over I formulate a plan of how I will deal with this person at work. However, because these encounters are so people specific, I must create these plans again for yet another person who decides to unload their venom in my vicinity. These plan are structures that these people need and no one has taught them that they need them.
I have to remind myself this all the time! I can only control my actions, not others. However, what I do may have a positive impact and change the situation that is frustrating me.
Great leadership wisdom
Great stuff! This message is one I share with colleagues, students and my own children on a near daily basis. We are only in control of ourselves. What others do often doesn’t really impact us unless we allow it. It’s amazing the difference this realization makes when someone realizes it. Not to over use a word, but it is empowering to accept and live with the idea that the only control others have over us is control that we allow them to have. Thank you for this post!
Thanks for these great tips! I had this conversation with my daughter in elementary school when she never had a response when another student said something intimidating. It was something we practiced to give her confidence without being rude or disrespectful.
My favorite is to use the line, “Well how about that.”
Does not affirm, just notes I have heard.
Interesting! I usually have those moments of man I wish I would have spoken up. I never really thought to write it down and practice but I can see the benefit for sure! I also really like the quote. Especially as it relates to people who get passionate about a subject and have the potential to get loud and yell. Something so simple as standing can be a powerful tool.
I really like the recommendation for practicing. Writing down possible responses is not nearly as effective as saying them out loud, testing out the tone of voice, body language and more that you might use in such situations.
I need this! I have a boss who definitely rises his voice, he can use tones talking to me in management meetings that I find disrespectful and degrading. He expects that he will always have his view trump and win even if he has to lie or lead you down a rosy path. Since he is the boss, he does get the last word. I used to freeze because what is the point of fighting him. Leaving me completely powerless and then he punished me for not being effective as a leader. So I got help, attended training, mentoring, coaching – resources for my corner and I have started to fight back which he likes even less. For the first time in a 25 year career my considering leaving my employment. I need to stick it out for a while until my family can get insurance and a living wage somewhere else. I like the simple phrases and have used the pause effectively with others before and these phrase have helped our conversations but we are not there yet.
Hi Dan, I freeze or start babbling, depending on how uncomfortable I am, so I definitely have much to learn. I will try and reflect and formulate a plan for next time this happens. I am working on self-development in my leadership journey this year. I’d love to win this book, sounds like a super read with some great take-aways.
Great advice! In some instances, I’ve also found repeating what the person said, or asking them to repeat themselves, and requesting clarification works wonders. At least 75% of the time, what they “meant” is not what I heard. As complex human beings, we filter every word, action, and gesture through our own personal value system and the social institutions in which we were raised. Asking for clarification before assuming a person’s intent, jumping to conclusions and taking offense, could save you from a lot of stress in the future.
In the book Crucial Conversations, the authors talk about silence or violence behavior in response to experiencing a strong negative emotion based on something another person says. Freezing would be an example of a silence behavior. You are freezing because when you experience a strong emotion, in this case likely a strong negative emotion, the emotion center of the brain, the amygdala, takes over, robbing energy and blood flow from the conscious thinking part of the brain – the prefrontal cortex or the seat of decision-making, problem-solving, and critical thinking. You freeze because your brain literally does not have the capacity for critical thinking in that moment. When you freeze, you can do something to dissipate the emotion and regain your critical thinking capacity. For example, take a slow and deep breath and think about something that makes you happy. Personally, when I feel negative emotion coming on in the workplace, I replay the ChumbaWumba lyrics “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down” over and over again in my head which keeps my negative emotion at bay so that I can say something thoughtful to diffuse the situation. Critical thinking is needed in workplace situations when negative emotions are triggered because many different things need to be taken into account: who is present in the room, the power relationships between the people present in the room, the social relationships between the people in the room, the potential consequences of different responses, and so on.
Near perfect description of What’s Happening, and a great idea to use a musical mantra! (Never occurred to me, thx!)
While it’s true that freezing allows you a breath to control your reflex (fight or flight) and necessarily recapture your critical thinking, what you describe at the end is artistic thinking (a process of creative synthesis – more intuitive and irrational), not critical thinking (a necessarily reductive analytical process – logical and rational).
Having a firm and clear grip on precisely what the abuse is (the breach of trust) before you act/speak is the critical thinking that needs to occur first;
Only then we can more effectively synthesize the social/power environment we are actually in at the moment.
If we interject a cliche as a short cut for critical thinking and go straight away to the social/political, we are doing our Self an injustice, and only make things more confusing for everyone else.
In my humble experience.
Great Advice to start off the new year!
Great advice! I plan to have and use one of the short responses ready and waiting to use it.
Looking forward to implementing this strategy! Thanks for sharing.
Unfortunately, the last time that happened, I did not freeze, take a breath or stay calm; I lost my temper because I was interrupted and began to talk louder and over the bully. I got fed up and resigned. But I could have taken a breath because it was one bully out of nine, take a breath, just say, “Refer to my report of you want to know the answer, and you run the risk if you go with his answer.” and ask to leave.
I very much resonate with this post because as a community educator on sexual and reproductive rights, I am frequently faced with ‘hot moments.’ That is a particularly fitting term for those situations, because I feel my entire person radiate with heat, whether from anger or frustration or some combination of the two. Many people have a wide range of opinions and beliefs regarding the issues I speak about, as to be expected. Unfortunately, many people also have much misinformation and the outcome is ignorance or even hate. When comments like these arise, I have displayed a pattern of freezing in the past. However, when you’re in front of a room full of people or staring back at a computer screen, knowing there are lots of faces staring back at you, you can’t exactly freeze. I end up getting very flustered, I stutter my words, I sweat, all in all I look unprofessional or like I don’t know what I’m talking about. That is certainly not the impression I want to leave with people who I am trying to teach. That being said, I really enjoyed reading your tips about how to strategize so as to be prepared for the next time a situation like this will arise, which it will! Reflecting on the interaction does allow me to think critically about why the person said what they said, why I got upset about what they said, and what I would have liked my response to have been. In addition to reflecting on my own, I also find it extremely beneficial to talk through it with another person, because sometimes saying the words or phrases out loud, lets me practice several possible responses. Typically the desired outcome for my specific situation is to find a point of similarity or common ground so as to help the other individual, as well as myself, gain comprehension as to where and why the other is coming from.