If I were to ask you to name a well-known leader or public figure that embodies the word "calm," who would you choose? I'd choose the Dalai Lama.
Known globally for his compassionate mindset and inspirational speaking, he has devoted his life to promoting peace and encouraging people to live their best lives with inner calm.
"Don't ever mistake my silence for ignorance, my calmness for acceptance or my kindness for weakness. Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength."The 14th Dalai Lama, spiritual leader (1935 – )
To be honest, I've not always considered calmness to be a sign of strength. I think that's because most organizations I've worked with haven't truly celebrated calmness as a key strength.
A Calm Leader Is One You Can Trust
In my experience, managers have been rewarded for delivering projects, saving money, and achieving sales. Being a calm leader has not often been rewarded or even called out as something to celebrate.
Similarly, interviewers have rarely looked for calmness in their new recruits. In fact, demonstrating calmness in an interview has occasionally been mistaken for a lack of drive, passion, enthusiasm, or being too laid back. And, as the quote above suggests, I've seen it regarded as a sign of weakness.
Yet calm is both a helpful characteristic and a useful behavior. Calm people tend not to display worry or anxiety in difficult situations, and they're often reliable decision-makers or confident, strong leaders.
What more do you want in a crisis than a calm, unflappable leader who can cut through confusion and clearly communicate their strategy? That's the kind of leader you can trust.
Being Calm Is a Superpower!
So, having given calmness further thought, I'm now on a mission to put calmness on the map – the behavioral competency map, that is. In the context of today's complex and changeable workplace, it's arguably one of the most powerful traits we can develop. Perhaps it's even a superpower?
Should you need a little more convincing that calmness is worth celebrating, consider the following benefits. By staying calm you can:
Be more compassionate to yourself and others.
Have greater self-belief in your capacity to cope when things go wrong.
Free your mind to notice the positives in life and celebrate successes.
Stop or avoid overthinking.
Accept that people are not perfect, and mistakes will happen.
Avoid "all or nothing" thinking, which leads to catastrophizing and stress.
Avoid procrastination and deal with any problems that present themselves with a rational mindset.
See things with a clear head and keep problems in proportion.
Not get caught in the "busyness trap" and take more time to just "be."
Cope better with stress as you won’t worry about problems before they happen.
Feel a greater sense of inner confidence and feel more relaxed in general.
Yes, calm is definitely a superpower in my book. Find your calm and get stuff done.
Find Your Calm and Get Stuff Done
In our #MTtalk Twitter chat on Friday, we discussed the benefits and possible drawbacks of staying calm – personally, and in the workplace. Here are the questions we asked, and a selection of the most thought-provoking responses from our participants.
Q1. What does calmness feel, look or sound like?
@K_arenT Being at ease, self-aware, happy. Feels fuzzy and warm, sounds like a natural, slow blowing wind or sea breeze, sun shining shades of yellow.
@ZalaB_MT I think calmness feels/looks/sounds different for each and every person. For me, it's a feeling of peace and serenity, deep calmness, my thoughts are not racing and I feel light and energized, as I do after every sporting activity or a good hike.
Q2. When you are calm, not agitated, who does it benefit, and how?
@junkkDNA Me and people surrounding me. It's all about energy that vibrates through one and affects others, whether it's positive or negative. Calmness within definitely influences others.
@J_Stephens_CPA Calmness benefits you (health & mental), those around you – you help them focus, and those impacted by what you are focusing on.
Q3. When might it not be helpful for you to be calm? Why?
@CaptRajeshwar When your car gets bogged down at the main junction at peak time. Those horns will ensure you are out of your calmness!
@Yolande_MT If, for their own safety, I need to get someone out of a "freeze"-reaction and it requires me to shout at them or give them a slap on the back, I'll absolutely do it. We're tempted to think that you should not remain calm in life-threatening situations or crises. However, calm doesn't equate to being slow or not taking action.
Q4. How do you react to a person who is not calm?
@tommyphad Observe and study. Be a good listener.
@rowjayyy If it's in a work environment, I try my best to be understanding and calm towards them in the hope they reciprocate. In other environments, I do the same. But if it's completely unnecessary, I walk away.
Q5. What can you do to create calm in yourself?
@PG_pmp Just hold your thoughts not to be reactive in tough situations. To maintain calm, think twice, thrice, even 10 times before one acts.
@greatergoodgeek I have recently been learning about "breath work" and how certain breathing techniques can "tell our brain" that we can be calm in this moment (i.e. that we are safe in this moment and not being chased by a tiger!).
Q6. What can you do to create calm in others?
@J_Stephens_CPA When my wife gets upset about something, I remind her of what she has accomplished in the past 4 months and that I am here to help her now.
@llake Be present in your response. Telling someone to be calm is a natural response, but usually, it makes the other more irritated, even angry. Listen more than talk. Control the temperature of your voice & emotions.
Q7. What happens in the workplace when there isn't enough calm?
@SoniaH_MT When there isn't enough calm in the workplace careless mistakes can happen more frequently. It can be challenging to focus and it can hamper a team member's creative process.
@llake Poor decision-making. Irritability. Chaos. Poor morale. Lower vibrations begetting lower vibrations leads to overall destruction & depression. Also, it affects overall well-being & physical health. Our cells remember.
Q8. Can it be too calm in the workplace? Explain.
@MikeB_MT Maybe. But wouldn't it be great if we could meet deadlines and demands by laser-focusing our calm around a goal, rather than bouncing in and out of calm? It's not an all or nothing. Perhaps we can adapt calm to meet stressful and demanding situations.
@ThiamMeka2Gogue When you remain calm, there is more of a chance that you also stay positive, which affects your relationships with those you work with for the better. Remaining calm at work is an attribute you can practice in your workplace to support a more cohesive space you're happy to be a part of every day.
Q9. What does it feel like to be led by a calm leader?
@Midgie_MT Much nicer than someone who isn't calm! A calm leader gives clear directions with clear expectations, is able to navigate challenges or deal with difficulties, and reassures everyone that they are all in it together and that it will all work out.
@DrSupriya_MT Our workplaces are still not ready to appreciate calm leaders; they might be labeled as lacking drive or having no fire in the belly, or being not aggressive enough to demand performance.
@llake In my early days of not also being calm, I found it dubious & distrustful. Now I appreciate the shared energy as long as it is accompanied by appropriate action.
Q10. How can leaders facilitate calm for everyone?
@_GT_Coaching [Leaders can] practice calmness themselves and encourage others to do so, but ultimately it's down to others how they choose to be.
@Dwyka_Consult Be proactive rather than reactive. Role-model a good life balance. Remove as much friction from processes as possible. Focus on trust.
To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat, here.
Coming Up Next Time
Remaining calm when faced with a difficult situation might be seen as a type of generosity to yourself and others.
Next time on #MTtalk, we're going to discuss generosity: what it is and what it isn't. In our Twitter poll this week we'd like to know when you feel like a generous person.
Mind Tools Resources Related to Calmness
If you've enjoyed this roundup and would like to explore the topic further, here are some of the resources we shared during the chat. (Note: some resources are only available in full to Mind Tools Club or Corporate members.
How Can Stoicism Help You at Work?
8 Ways to Improve Self-Regulation
Thinking on Your Feet
Dealing With Angry People
How to Keep Calm in a Crisis
How to Be More Organized
Meditation for Stress Management
Managing Presentation Nerves
Physical Relaxation Techniques