For many of us, external expectations are most intense and numerous in the workplace. Demands are rigid and consequences can be serious. This can lead to stress, anxiety, and dread; particularly for high-stakes situations like performance reviews, client negotiations, and other meetings. All of these situations require us to bring our A-game, even when anxiety urges us to fade into the background or impulsivity causes our communication to become awkward.
Ideal workplace interactions are clear, confident, and meaningful. Here are some tips to limit stress and perform your best in front of your boss, clients, and coworkers.
Fresh start mindset
Let go of negative assumptions about what others think of you. In this moment, these feelings and emotions are useless manifestations of your own fears. Recognize your insecurity, give it a name, welcome it, and put it aside.
Even stress based on real resentments or past struggles threaten to become our focus unless we consciously take stock of them and choose to focus instead on our curiosity and potential.
Every meeting is a new opportunity to turn things around. The audience at the late show didn’t see the matinee. Every moment is a new show and a new opportunity. You are not broken and everyone wants you to succeed. To do that, you just need to manage your symptoms and prepare.
Your ideas are not a plan until they are written down in concrete terms. That is preparation. Don’t avoid spending the time that planning demands. It is part of the process that atypicals often rush through in a panicked, last-minute haste. If planning is difficult for you, accept that it will require additional time and effort. Perhaps some external structures are necessary to help remind you of the steps required and provide accountability.
Consider what, specifically, the meeting is meant to accomplish and how you can contribute to advancing that goal. What can you bring, without being asked? Who could you ask for help and what will they need from you? When you come up with an idea, try to think of follow-up questions you might receive and write down your answers. No matter how formal your planning process is, writing down your thoughts in advance will help you mentally rehearse for success.
Atypicals often show up with a “shoot, then aim” approach. Relying on our wits comes naturally to us, after all. You might need to set a pre-meeting calendar notification or alarm the day before. Whatever it takes, remind yourself to aim first and you’ll hit more often.
Ask for clarification
Always ask for clarification and follow up in writing. This record keeps us from forgetting because we have a reference of expectations for our plan.
Keep it brief and clear
Bottom line your contributions. Atypicals tend to answer questions with a ton of information, thoughts, and feelings which approximate an answer. A cloud of information that leads to our conclusion, rather than going from A to B.
Meetings are about determining intentions in order to take action. This is an A to B situation. Take your spiritual thought journey before the meeting and keep those calculations behind the curtain. That’s for brainstorming sessions. At a meeting, get to the action; the point. What is it? Start there.
A focused distraction can keep you focused by constantly reminding you of the task at hand and can make you appear more engaged. Preoccupy your restless mind with a focused form of distraction like taking notes, gripping a stress ball, or walking and talking. Taking notes is my top choice, but do whatever is both appropriate and beneficial to your engagement.
Acknowledge when you interrupt
If you are nervous or excited the stress can cause you to communicate inappropriately. We may trample over other people’s words or speak before thinking. Be aware of these “wound up” feelings arising within you. Recognize them, then pause, relax your body posture, and give yourself permission to listen more. Briefly acknowledge the stress and move on.
Follow up by email. Communicate what you’ve already done and the steps you’re excited to take next. When you communicate with team members, always be positive. Pump others up because then you’ll be the kind of person others want in the room. You don’t need to be clever or loud, but supportive and capable.
Whenever you encounter stress in the workplace, remember that confidence is key. No one wants to know you’re stressed or struggling. There are no prizes to be redeemed with pity points. That does not mean you need to be perfect or have all the answers. Confidence does not come from perfection. Confidence comes from awareness of what needs to be done and how to do it (or the curiosity to get excited and find out).
I hope these tips help you feel more confident and capable going into your next meeting. There is a lot more information on this topic in the ADHD GO book and course, so check that out. Also, let us know how you overcome workplace stress in the comments, and check us out on Youtube.