In my last blog, I invited you to imagine a one-on-one meeting with a very wealthy corporate prospect in which you make an ask for financial support. Let’s say that thus far this meeting is running smoothly. Using the practices of invitation, sharing, exploration, and affirmation (ISEA), the conversation has reached a natural and easy flow. Then your host asks you an unexpected question. It catches you off guard, anxiety sets in, and you momentarily go blank. You have veered off track or, as some declare, you go “off center.”
It can happen in so many ways: nasty comments, doodling, boring stories, long pauses, headlines, or tough questions. Me? I go off center by talking to much either out of nervousness or thinking that my story is so fascinating.
How do we return to center?
The first step is to be aware. Often we sense we are off center immediately. Your host’s tough question throw’s you for an immediate loop. Other times we are oblivious. The trick is to consistently practice your awareness. Become sensitive to your host’s reactions. Ask your friends and colleagues to provide gentle reminders. Become attuned to how your body sends its signals: short breathing, tight stomach, general discomfort.
Next, stop and take a breath or two and allow yourself return to center. I encourage my clients to reflect upon an image that captures the heart of their organization. It could be a child’s face, a wetland, a moving quote, or scripture. When that off center moment inevitably comes, ponder that image, take a breath, and move on. It is a quiet reminder and helpful tool.
Third step, ask yourself: “Am I back to center?” “How do I feel?”
Final thought: Remember that your prospect (or friend, family member, or stranger) is your partner in maintaining the communication and flow of the meeting. Invite their participation. For example:
- “Could you expand on that question?” “I am not sure I caught what you meant.”
- “This meeting is very big for me and frankly I’m a bit nervous.”
- “Excuse me. I feel we are veering from our agenda. I would love to chat about this topic later.”
Your candor and commitment will likely impress your host. You’re then ready to return your shared center and the conversation you both want to be in.
There is a simplicity of process here, but a lifetime of practice. I welcome your comments, ideas, or questions.