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  • The NeuroLeadership Coach

T.I.A.R.A - 5 Points to Keep Your Cool

Updated: Jul 4, 2020

Many of my mid-career coaching clients identify a desire to show up in business meetings more powerfully and confident, while quickly establishing warmth and authenticity. They are often the youngest leader in the room, and sometimes the only female. They know their subject matter cold and their expertise is unquestioned.

Just as they stand to share their expertise, close the sale, or question the viability of a proposed action, something terrible happens. They may go week in the knees, feel their heart racing or break out in a sweat. Their mouth may inexplicably go dry, and they report that momentarily, they forgot what they were going to say. What happened?

They were caught in an emotional hijack. When they ask me, "what can I do in the moment to regain my composure, stay focused, and quash the emotional and physical hijack?" I counsel them to put on their T.I.A.R.A.

The T.I.A.R.A.TM framework represents five actions to regulate emotions as discovered by cognitive and social neuroscience research to mitigate the brain's immediate, unconscious, protective response to a perceived "social threat" - like public disapproval and rejection (Eisenberger, Lieberman & Williams 2003) - to a conscious, controlled response.

The five-point framework includes:

Take an alternative approach.

Improve the situation

Attention- selectively focus

Reappraise the situation

Adopt a positive expression

Take an alternative approach

The simplest action to regulate emotion is to not engage in the threatening situation in the first place. Check your assumptions and consider why you have chosen your current approach. Is it just the way that you have always interacted with this person or group? What would be the courageous action to take? What approach would feel more comfortable and better utilize your skills and strengths? Applying your strengths successfully results in increased confidence. Feeling confident releases brain chemicals including serotonin, endorphins, oxytocin and dopamine. These chemicals influence the feeling of safety, calmness, and happiness which keep you centered.

Improve the situation

Improving the situation to reduce anxiety is an easy approach often indulged by practiced speakers. Actions may include arriving at the meeting room in advance to get a lay of the land, testing the sound and projection equipment to confirm there will be no technical glitches, or placing an extra bottle of water strategically near your selected seat. If you are presenting to an audience whom you do not know, arrive early enough to meet and talk with a few individuals to establish rapport. You can then call on these few by name during your presentation.

Attention - selectively focus

Attention is a complex brain function. What grabs your attention and takes you off point may be an unexpected interruption or reaction, like an observed exchange between participants, a negative facial expression, or your boss looking down at his phone. By quickly refocusing your attention away from the distraction to something safe, or to someone familiar, you will feel calmed, which will allow you the necessary moment to regain your composure and focus.

Reappraise the situation

Often our own fears and self doubt ascribe invalid, negative assumptions about how others perceive us. In a split-second, we appraise whether another is friend or foe, and whether the situation is one to be feared or desired. You can regulate your emotions by thinking about the image or situation in a way that makes you feel less negative, or shift the story in your head to one more positive, "she's just tired". You can also emotionally distance yourself from the situation. Consider that the behavior of others is usually not about you at all, but an assumption or story you make up, or infer in the moment. Reappraisal is a powerful way to regulate emotion.

Adopt a positive expression

Fake it to make it. Deciding to adopt a positive outlook and employing one of the emotional regulation techniques described above will help you to get through the emotional hijack. Most importantly, do not suppress your emotions. Suppression increases your negative emotion, increases stress, and puts you on the defensive, which reduces cognitive function.

(Butler, et al. 2003, Gross & John, 2003)


Theresa L. Garcia, PCC, MSOD, SPHR prepares F50 NextGen thinkers around the world to transform their careers, business and society through confidential, brain-centric leadership coaching and organization design strategy. / 480-575-0820 /

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