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