Have you ever dealt with a challenging client, participant, or audience member during a speech or event? Someone who disagrees with what you say, has a negative attitude, or strong opinion about you or your content?
Not having the skills to deal with this kind of situation can make any coaching or teaching experience feel like a nightmare.
That’s why as a coach or leader, it’s important to develop the essential skill of Owning Your Room.
When you Own Your Room, you are grounded, centered, and relaxed (even if someone disagrees with you or has a negative energy, tries to make you uncomfortable, or gets upset or triggered).
I had an experience many years ago that woke me up, taught me a valuable lesson about how to own my room – and gave me a sense of deep humility in my work.
It happened at an event I was leading at the Ritz Carlton in Houston, TX. I had been coaching for about 15 years at this point. Two of the coaches who had gone through my certification program had put together an evening for new people to preview and experience my work.
Being well into my coaching career and having gained some success, I had become quite proud of what I did by that point.
I couldn’t see it at the time, but there was a hint of arrogance laced in my work and the way I was showing up.
That evening, I was leading the presentation when I said something that triggered one of the participants. She immediately made a sarcastic remark, letting me know she was offended with what I had said.
She made it clear to everyone in the room that she felt what I had said wasn’t acceptable.
I was shocked. I had no idea how to respond. Here I was, standing up in front of a new audience, as well as my loyal students who had trusted me and invited me to the event. I felt completely thrown off track, and not at all prepared to handle this situation.
I did my best to keep my composure, answer the woman, address her concerns, and move on with the presentation.
But inside, I was humiliated and overwhelmed with emotion.
For the rest of the evening, I was distracted, anxious, and unable to be fully present with the other participants. I could feel the woman’s negative energy, judgments and opinions building as the event went on, and as soon as it ended, I turned away, walked out of the room and BURST into tears. And I didn’t stop crying for four hours.
I felt ashamed, embarrassed, and humbled.
For the rest of the evening, I sat in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton while my students and my team watched me cry for hours. No one really knew what to do, they just kept handing me more tissues!
I was crushed. But this experience gave me the opportunity to get a valuable reflection of myself as a leader and a coach.
I saw that I was more interested in being right and, in very subtle ways, I was acting arrogant – instead of being receptive and grounded in my responses.
Bottom line, I hadn’t stayed in my role as a coach. I had let the interaction with this woman throw me off my center. But at the time, I genuinely didn’t know how else to handle it.
Have you ever had an experience like this? A time when a challenging participant or client has made a comment, challenged you, or thrown you off your game in a moment when you were in a leadership position?
Many of us have a proverbial fear of tomatoes being thrown at us when we’re up on stage. And as a leader, coach, teacher, or speaker of any kind, you need to be prepared for how to handle this situation if it ever comes up.
My meltdown after that night wasn’t pretty or fun, but it taught me something incredibly valuable about Owning Your Room.
Today, I no longer worry about what someone might say or getting taken off track when I’m training, teaching, or coaching. When I get in front of a room of people (or a screen of people) and there is someone who I find challenging or who takes issue with something I say, I RELAX.
I know that everyone has their own opinions and lens on reality, and that’s okay. Instead of trying to be right or find a way to fix the situation, I shift my focus and I make them right. Whatever they say, I say “Right on! I can see how that’s true for you.” Or, “Thank you so much for sharing your view with me on this.”
Then I simply tell them to see if there’s anything they can take home from the experience – even if it’s just one little thing. (And if not, that’s okay too!)
Now my approach to my work is grounded in humility. I am there to be of service, not to prove that I’m right, or that I know what I’m doing.
The funny thing is, sometimes the people who challenge us with a different view end up becoming the most loyal clients when we get genuinely curious about them and they sense and feel we have nothing to prove.
Many of my clients started out this way, and have worked with me over many years.
Beyond how to handle a challenging person in the moment, Owning Your Room begins the moment you walk in the door.
Here’s the core of how it works:
Keep yourself centered and relaxed regardless of what happens around you. Remember to get your attention off yourself and put it onto others. You can share your warmth, but stay professional.
When someone goes up against you energetically, don’t go up against them. But don’t try to appease them either! Instead, make them right. (And mean it! For all you know, they very well may be!)
Owning Your Room is one small application of the most advanced coaching & communication skill we teach: Yielding. This is a foundational skill every coach or leader needs. It can decrease conflict, deepen trust in relationships, and have a profound impact on teams.
If you’re curious to learn more about Yielding and how to Own Your Room, then you will love our coaching certification that is all about helping you become a truly masterful coach and leader.
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