How do you stay calm under intense pressure? John Faisandier, a teacher, university chaplain, counselor, Race Relations Mediator and Life Skills Tutor at TUF, talks about understanding what triggers you and the three ways on how you can effectively respond to them. He also sheds light on how our brain works in the face of distress. Armed with this knowledge, you can have better engagement even with the most difficult customers. John also emphasizes the role of self-compassion and acceptance to continue making progress.
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Understanding What Triggers You with John Faisandier
We have with you John Faisandier. He is all the way here from New Zealand. John, welcome to our show.
Thank you very much, Sam. It’s lovely to be here.
I see your book, Thriving Under Fire, how to stay calm in difficult situations. How did you learn how to stay calm in difficult situations?
I learned this when I was working in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation hospital. My training is in psychodrama. Psychodrama is quite a difficult method to use. It was a difficult method to learn. It took me ten years to qualify and then another ten years to become a trainer in it. I was working with people who got very upset. We were doing therapy and looking at the triggers while they’re drinking and drugging. They were highly emotional and I needed to learn how to work with them.
A lot of our clients might have mastered in psychodrama too. Every now and then, you have a psychodrama client?
That’s the Hollywood version of psychodrama.
What are some of the triggers that you notice that people get upset?
It can be anything that triggers people and things that trigger you don’t upset me. It can be a mystery when other people do get upset about what’s said and what’s done. We often don’t know what it is that triggers other people. What’s important is that we notice they have been triggered.
Let’s say we’re dealing with a client, someone that has been triggered, what are a couple of steps that we can take on our end to keep the situation from exploding?
That’s at the heart of it. I love what you’re doing, the heartrepreneur and business people who’ve got a heart because this is about people meeting one another. It’s not a commercial transaction that involves money and goods or services, but it’s people meeting people. What happens is when somebody else is upset, I’m affected by them. They might be complaining to me. They might be saying no or any of those things. The first thing is, “I’m affected by it.” The three things that you can do, first of all is to notice that you need to breathe more deeply. Secondly and this is probably the most effective thing to calm yourself down, is to name your feelings to yourself, to realize and to accept them without judgment is the key thing. It’s almost like, “How interesting. I feel threatened by this person.”
I should be curious about that feeling, not judgmental. One of the things people say is to lean into the feelings. I wonder what this is related to. Often my reaction to another upset person is not so much about them, but about things that have happened in my past. When I can accept those, this can happen very quickly at the moment and this helps me to calm down. The third thing is to ask yourself a complex question. It gets the neocortex or the thinking part of your brain going. A good question is, “I wonder what else might be happening to them?” There are three things that I teach. I teach this more fully in the workshops that I run and also in the online program.
It’s not about the other person. We’re focusing on ourselves. We are focusing on the things that we can totally control and because someone else is triggered does not mean that we have to get triggered.
We do get triggered and we do have to get triggered because of our amygdala, this is about survival, the fight or flight. If we didn’t get triggered, we would have been run over by cars long ago or some other things. It’s what happens when we are triggered and not making a judgment about, “How terrible. Silly me I’ve got triggered.” No. It’s like, “How interesting. I got triggered here.” Something has sparked off for me.
One of the techniques I always used in difficult family situations is I would pretend I’m watching a soap opera, “Now this character did this. The next characters have responded with the same old.” Instead of being a part of it, watching a bad soap opera on TV.
There are lots of ways of surviving especially in a family situation where you are, in a sense, are a little bit more stuck into it as opposed to at work. However, if it works for you, great. The other part is that you want to stay engaged with people, particularly, you want to stay engaged with your customers. Rather than amiss, if it’s overwhelming, that’s quite a good thing to do. However, most are not overwhelming, especially if you are able to calm yourself down and realize that the other person is the one who’s upset. That takes us onto the second little piece to say, “What can you say to the other person when they are angry, upset, distressed, frustrated or any of those things?” The thing to do is to acknowledge their emotion first.
People want to feel felt. Just going, “You are frustrated about this. This has caused you a lot of trouble, hasn’t it?” You’re under a lot of pressure at the moment. This is very important to you. Any of those words, you don’t ask them what they’re feeling because often they’ve shown you. I’m upset by your service. You don’t say, “Are you upset?” “Yeah, I’ve talked to that.” You don’t ask, but you reflect back, “This is upsetting for you, isn’t it?” Something like that without judgment. In an accepting way, this will make a huge amount of difference to the way you meet your customers heart to heart. It’s not a technique, it’s about being genuine, hearing their distress.
Hearing their distress and being concerned about their distress. The communication channels open up a little more.
What you’re looking for is for the other person to calm down a little bit because when people are upset, it’s their emotional brain that takes over. Daniel Goleman wrote Emotional Intelligence calls this the amygdala hijack of the brain. They literally can’t be rational at that moment. What you’re looking for is for them to notice a little bit of calming when you say, “You’re upset.” “I’m very upset.” “Okay,” and you hear them calming a little bit. You can say, “What can we do to help?”
I have heard that term amygdala hijacking used often. What can you tell us about that? What is going on with the other person when they are getting amygdala hijacked?When you own and name your feelings without judging yourself, you become calmer and less judgmental of the other person. Click To Tweet
You’ve been amygdala hijacked. That’s what happens. It can be a big hijack or a little hijack. What happens is we’ve got a three-part brain, there is the reptilian brain, there’s the mammalian and there’s what’s called the neocortex or the new part of the brain, which does all the thinking, the speaking and making relationships. It’s the mammalian brain that’s got this emotional memory in it. We’ve got a bit that’s looking out for danger all the time. It happens when we’re watching a movie or when we are with somebody who’s upset. The amygdala is like the security center of the brain and that gets hyperactive because you’ve got to work out. Fight or flight gives a message to the reptilian brain, “We want more adrenaline,” because this is all about survival. Because it takes all the blood from the frontal cortex, that’s the rational brain, it would be like, “That doesn’t function so well.” That’s what happens there. Those three steps that I outlined, they help the rational brain get active again and I help to calm the amygdala.
It sounds like that’s all you’re talking about. Take that deep breath so you get a little calmer and get rid of the judgment so whatever you say does not come out aggressive.
It’s name your own feelings. You said that you’re owning those because in that moment your brain almost thinks the other person has caused me to feel like this, but it’s my feelings. They are probably related to things that happened in other times of your life that are in the unconscious, but you feel them in that moment. By owning your own feelings, naming them, without judging yourself, you become calmer. You’re able to be less judgmental to the other person. I’ve got a book that explains this. We can’t do it in these few minutes, but at least alerting people to the fact that this is the process that’s happening and you can control it a lot more easily.
About your book, how do people find out more about your programs and how to work with you?
My website is www.TUF.co.nz. If you go to www.TUF.co.nz/hash, people could sign up and get regular tips that I write weekly, 200 or 300 words. They’re very short. My book is on Amazon, Thriving Under Fire and people can get access to that as paperback, eBook or Kindle. These are the ways that people can learn more about this.
We have been talking to John Faisandier all the way from New Zealand. You can get more information about his book, Thriving Under Fire at his website, www.TUF.co.nz. John, what parting thought do you want to leave our readers with?
The important thing, especially about this work is to be self-compassionate. Self-compassion is important so you don’t have to get it right all the time. When you get it wrong, to be able to forgive yourself and accept yourself so that the next time you can do better and you can have another go at it.
Be good to your mammalian brain.
Be good to all of yourself.
This is Sam Mak, your guest host. You can find out more about me at www.SpeakerAuthorMotivator.com. Also, we love your five-star reviews. If you enjoyed this podcast, be sure you subscribe so you don’t miss other podcasts.
- John Faisandier
- Thriving Under Fire
- Emotional Intelligence
- Thriving Under Fire – Amazon
About John Faisandier
John Faisandier – speaker, author, trainer, counselor, educator, entrepreneur
Volunteer teaching in Tonga, Catholic priesthood, psychodrama training lay the foundation for me to become a compassionate emotional intelligence expert.
My work in a drug and alcohol treatment hospital and over 20 years as an entrepreneur and corporate trainer give me a unique perspective on managing emotions in business and personal life.
I have taught thousands of people in many parts of the world and I willingly shares these secrets with you in my book.
In the second session of a recent workshop, one participant revealed that a month ago she separated from her husband after 15 years of arguments and rancor. Despite her skepticism, she tried the techniques learned in the first session. She was amazed. He quickly calmed down, despite the fact that she wanted to throw up, she calmed herself down and for the first time, they had a half-decent conversation.
These are the techniques I have learned over more than 20 years running workshops for people who want to learn how to manage emotions at work and at home. I love this work which is based on the psychodrama method. I was inspired to write the book because I want as many people as possible to learn these principles, enjoy life more and promote world peace.
I live in Wellington, New Zealand and have been happily married to Sally for nearly 30 years. We have an adult son making his way in the world, and a lowchen dog to amuse us.
Since writing the book I have developed an interactive online program and offer online coaching for those who really want to live well. In the meantime you can sign up for my free weekly blog, short posts with tips on managing emotions. www.tuf.co.nz
Contact & Interview inquiries:
+64 27 2460411
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