Science proves what we already know to be true: nobody performs well under pressure. Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most by Hendrie Weisinger and J.P. Pawliw-Fry finds that judgment, decision-making, attention and performance decline for everyone while under pressure.
But, don’t despair. Some people perform better than others under pressure, and these people have a thing or two to teach you about improving your own performance when the pressure’s on. Research conducted by Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry of more than 12,000 people found the top 10% of people who effectively handle pressure rely on certain strategies.
How coping strategies can help during high-pressure situations:
- reduce feelings of anxiety, stress, fear and embarrassment
- avoid distractions
- regulate over-stimulation
- guide behavior
- focus on what helps you
Here are six of the 22 pressure solutions they found.
1. It’s an opportunity, not a threat
As an entrepreneur, you should have this one nailed. You started your business because you see solutions where others see obstacles.
If you view obstacles as threatening, you will perform more poorly. That attitude undermines your self-confidence, elicits fear of failure, impairs short-term memory, attention, and judgment, and spurs impulsive behavior. Instead, view obstacles as something to get around, under or through. And remember, practice makes perfect. Carry this attitude into every situation you encounter: It’s not just a sales call — it’s an opportunity to build a long-term relationship.
2. This is one of many opportunities
Whether you are seeking money, a big client or an alliance, downsize the importance of the meeting by realizing that if this opportunity doesn’t work out, chances are there will be others. Before you walk in the door, give yourself a pep talk and remind yourself that there will be other sales calls. Very few moments are truly “life and death” situations.
3. Depressurize the situation
The more weight you put on the situation, the more pressure you feel. It may sound counter-intuitive, but no matter how important the meeting, minimize its significance and don’t make a big deal of it.
4. Stay focused
Be in the moment. Focus on the task at hand, not the outcome. You’re in a pitch meeting. Focus on who they are and what they want — not on making the sale. For an entrepreneur seeking his or her first big client, or an intrapreneur looking for C-suite buy-in, that means concentrating on who the prospect is and how you can provide what they want or need.
5. Stay positive
When you approach a task with a positive attitude, you’re more likely to have the confidence needed to succeed. This isn’t easy for people whose lives have fallen off track, but negative thoughts undermine performance. Anxiety and fear of failure are a distraction that will take you off course rather than motivate success.
6. Expect the unexpected
Anticipate the unexpected. Ask yourself several what-if questions. What happens if I don’t have internet connectivity during my product demonstration? What if my time to present is cut from 20 minutes to five? By preparing for different scenarios, you ensure that your performance will be good no matter what happens.
When it comes to performing in high-pressure situations, attitude matters. Use these tips and others in the book to make sure you have a good one.