One by one, they pounded at me … shaking my confidence … pestering my resolve … breaking my heart.
More than once during the 15- minute conversation — apparently it takes about five minutes to break the news of a layoff and about 10 minutes to review HR formalities — I fought off urges to behave unseemly.
I wanted to press my hands against my ears and chant “I can’t hear you.”
I wanted to spit out a few sarcastic observations like “Gee, I am so glad I stayed at the office until 9:30 the other night to honor a deadline.”
I wanted to cry. And I don’t mean spill down a few silent tears, I mean I wanted to unleash the ugly cry.
Am I ashamed that I entertained those feelings? Honestly … no. I’m not ashamed one bit. My world rocked from a major blow. Losing a job I was passionate about hurt. I also feel no shame because although those tumultuous feelings and impulses stirred wild inside me, I fought them and managed to make it through the ordeal with my composure in tact.
Here are the techniques I employed to help me keep my composure while receiving bad news.
- Death Grip/Tight Jaw – There is something about stiffening my jaw, gently biting the insides of my cheeks and clenching my fists that helps me maintain my resolve. It wards against numbness and allows me to grasp at least a semblance of control, which I find helpful when someone else is making a major life decision for me.
- Silent Prayer – Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel” flooded my mind while I took in the bad news. Although I was listening to my boss, I was also fervently lifting up the silent prayer, “Dear Jesus … take the wheel of my heart. Help me get through this. Please give me your strength, because mine is not enough.”
- Remembering the Other People in the Room – A layoff is obviously tough for the person losing her job. It’s also not a cakewalk (at least it shouldn’t be) for the person(s) delivering the news. When I was able to take an honest look at the bearers of bad news and understand that they were hurting on some level as well, I was better able to keep calm and shower them with grace.
- Embracing Reality – Yielding to impulse would not have added anything positive to the situation. Nothing would have changed for the better, in fact things could have gotten worse. While amid the challenge, I kept reminding myself that self control would reap reward (positive references, no embarrassment, etc.)
Everyone handles bad news differently. Are there any techniques that help you stay calm when you feel like unraveling?
If you’d like to read deeper thoughts about this experience, I have a post at (in) Courage today that shares about being let go when you’re not ready to say goodbye.