Reach out instead of retreating - Deepstash

Reach out instead of retreating

Instead of thinking up stories about your boss's intentions and withdraw in your mind, do the opposite.

Reach out to your boss to clarify the agenda for the meeting. Ask if there is something specific you can prepare. This can give you insight into the reason for calling the meeting while easing your concerns.




The best way to deal with the anxiety of the unexpected is through rehearsal.

  • Start by thanking them. "Thank you so much for sharing that with me. I appreciate your willingness to be candid with your concerns."
  • Validate their concerns. "I understand how important it is to have an understanding of .... If I were in your shoes, I would want to know, too."
  • Diplomatically defer if you don't have a response. "I'm happy to share my initial thinking for ... I'd like to reserve the right to investigate and come back to you with a more thorough response."



Your body may go into a fight-or-flight response when you receive a request to a surprise meeting. You may experience an increased heartbeat, tunnel vision, and sweating.

A simple way to calm yourself is with a mindfulness technique called grounding. It will slow your heart rate, improve your self-control and give you greater command over your thoughts and actions. There are many grounding exercises that you can try.



After you've calmed your body, focus on your automatic negative thoughts. You may fall into unhelpful or wrong thinking like catastrophizing - where you imagine the worst-case scenario - or jumping to conclusions where you convince yourself that you know what other people are thinking.

To counter cognitive distortions, simply look at your fingers and consider five alternative explanations for why your boss may be calling the meeting.



Panic induced by a surprise meeting

The first thought that goes through almost any professional when they hear the phrase, "Can we talk?", is that they did something wrong. An unexpected meeting can take the most self-assured person aback, especially if it comes from your boss.

This is a normal response that is naturally wired into the brain. It is a protective mechanism designed to keep you safe.



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The most productive one-on-ones have some kind of structure, which requires you to do some prep beforehand. Basically, don’t just show up and chat—you’ll lose precious time in rambling conversations.

  • Is this time-sensitive? If it’s urgent, don’t wait for your next meeting to provide an update. Mention anything urgent in real time so your manager can quickly help you before the going gets too tough.
  • How complicated is my update? If you find yourself drafting an essay-length email to your manager, that’s a good sign your update is better suited for in person. On the other hand, if it’s short and sweet, go on and send over an email, but don’t let it cut into precious one-on-one time.
  • Is this an opportunity to share a win? Don’t be afraid to share and celebrate your wins. Help your manager see your progress and acknowledge your good work. This also helps your manager share your work with leadership who you might not interact with you on a regular basis.

Ask questions that get to the heart of your concerns. For instance, if you’re stuck on a potential strategy, you can ask your manager: “How would you approach X? My proposed solution is Y, any feedback on this?”

Articulate and agree on these commitments in the last part of your one-on-one so you’re crystal clear on what’s expected between now and your next check-in. This could be as simple as your manager agreeing to send over a report that might be helpful for you, or as complex as you agreeing to have a difficult conversation with a client.


It can be hard to interpret body language, facial expressions, and the nuances of feedback from a distance. And spending time alone in your home office can render you stuck in your own head, replaying mental loops.

To stop irrational suspicion in its track you can: proactively set expectations with your colleagues around communication style, beware of scope creep, depersonalize other’s actions, and compartmentalize your anxieties.


Experiencing Panic Attacks
  • Around 15 to 30 percent of us experience a panic attack at least once in our lives, which is essentially our body’s emergency response system.
  • Symptoms include more blood being pumped into our muscles, narrow vision, faster breaths and auto-shutting of the digestive system.
  • Side-effects may include sweating and dizziness, and the commotion usually lasts a few minutes.
  • The body is now primed for a ‘fight or flight’ response, and if there is a real danger, a panic attack can be life-saving.