When — and How — to Hold a Poker Face at Work


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Sustaining a poker face doesn’t essentially imply suppressing your emotions or being dishonest. It merely means practising emotion regulation by being conscious of your facial expressions and physique language and utilizing them strategically. On this piece, the writer explains when to placed on a poker face, or not, and gives sensible methods for easy methods to interrupt your internal eruption. The higher you’ll be able to self-regulate, the better it is going to be to precise your feelings in a approach you’re feeling happy with.

Jude, a chief operations officer at a digital banking firm, was the kind of chief everybody cherished. Type and welcoming, he had a knack for connecting with others and provoking belief from his group. However as an emotional particular person (or what I name a delicate striver), Jude usually wore his coronary heart on his sleeve. He discovered it difficult to cover his feelings throughout inopportune occasions, and his facial expressions usually gave away his true emotions even when it didn’t serve him or others. 

Jude as soon as advised me a couple of significantly tense buyer assembly the place his feelings and caring nature received the higher of him. As COO, Jude had been referred to as in to intervene after a sequence of conflicts had occurred between the client and Jude’s frontline group.

As Jude started presenting a plan for getting the mission again on monitor, the shopper interrupted him and peppered him with a litany of issues and complaints. Jude tried to stay diplomatic and mission authority, however his voice started to shake, his eyes darted across the room, and he struggled to provide you with solutions and robust retorts. Jude felt embarrassed that he had misplaced his cool and realized that, as a frontrunner, he’d inevitably run into future conditions that required him to take care of a poker face. 

As an government coach to extremely delicate professionals, I’ve witnessed firsthand how a frontrunner’s perceptiveness and attunement to others can revive morale, encourage belief, and create a optimistic work setting. In spite of everything, feelings are undoubtedly an essential management device. Pleasure, enthusiasm, and pleasure can result in greater motivation, whereas camaraderie and connection can enhance collaboration. 

However these identical deep-feeling professionals usually ask me, “How do I keep a poker face?” Essentially the most skillful leaders acknowledge that whereas more often than not it may be helpful to place your emotions on show, there are specific conditions when unleashing your uncooked, unfiltered feelings can backfire, as Jude discovered firsthand. Whether or not it’s throughout a high-stakes assembly, a efficiency evaluate, or every other office encounter, consciously and thoroughly controlling the way you categorical your reactions is usually a large problem. 

Sustaining a poker face doesn’t essentially imply suppressing your emotions or being dishonest. It merely means practising emotion regulation by being conscious of your facial expressions and physique language and utilizing them strategically. Right here’s how to do this. 

Choose conditions properly. 

A poker face isn’t appropriate for each scenario, nor ought to or not it’s a constant approach of speaking. Concealing an excessive amount of, too usually could make you seem much less reliable, competent, and likable. Usually in management, your group, colleagues, and prospects must see the way you react in an effort to really feel psychologically protected and to tell their very own selections. So how do you determine when to placed on a poker face? Ask your self: 

  • How will expressing my feelings assist or hinder my objectives? Should you’re making an attempt to construct relationships and rapport, utilizing a poker face might come throughout as insincere or uninterested, whereas for those who’re negotiating, it might be advantageous to guard your place.
  • What’s my position within the interplay? For instance, for those who’re main a gathering, you might need to show extra confidence and assertiveness, whereas for those who’re a participant, you might need to show extra openness and receptivity.
  • How acceptable is it for me to indicate vulnerability on this context? Contemplate whether or not the scenario requires a extra guarded strategy or whether or not it’s acceptable to be extra open, alongside along with your private model and what feels extra genuine to you.
  • What are the norms of the individuals or group I’m speaking with? Totally different cultures and teams have completely different expectations across the expression of feelings. Regulate your habits accordingly.

Establish your tells

Within the sport of poker, a inform is a slight change in habits that may give away whether or not you’ve got an excellent hand or a foul one. Figuring out your tells — the bodily or behavioral cues that give away your feelings or intentions — will be helpful that will help you management your response and keep a poker face in acceptable conditions. 

As you work together with individuals all through your day, observe your self in numerous contexts. Pay attention to any patterns that come up whenever you’re calm versus whenever you’re feeling nervous, fearful, indignant, or careworn. Maybe you run your fingers by way of your hair, sway or rock in your chair, or keep away from eye contact. A longtime inform I’ve labored on curbing is my tendency to chunk or choose at my nails once I really feel like I’m underneath strain. 

If doable, report your self in numerous conditions and evaluate the footage to search for tells. It’s also possible to ask a trusted mentor or colleague to replicate again patterns they’ve seen that you just’re not conscious of. 

Be conscious of your physique language.

While you select to make use of a poker face, you don’t need to seem like a chilly, stoic statue. You’ll be extra profitable in case your facial expressions keep a contact of heat. Take a couple of gradual, deep breaths to calm your feelings, and picture releasing all the stress out of your face. That might embody loosening your jaw and transferring your tongue away from the roof of your mouth. Strive softening your gaze, too. Should you’re feeling tense or anxious, you might inadvertently slim your eyes or stare fixedly at one thing, so attempt specializing in a degree within the distance to loosen up your eye muscular tissues. 

Sustaining a poker face includes tending to your tone of voice. Communicate low and gradual. Scale back your fee of speech, which can velocity up for those who’re indignant or fearful. Communicate out of your diaphragm (your decrease stomach) to provide a deeper and extra resonant voice. Discover impartial phrases that transfer the dialog ahead however don’t give away your place, akin to “that’s attention-grabbing” or “assist me perceive…”

Interrupt your internal eruption.

The higher you’ll be able to self-regulate, the better it is going to be to precise your feelings in a approach you’re feeling happy with. You may observe responding, not reacting, with easy instruments to calm your nervous system: 

  • Grounding strategies: Depend backward from 100, determine 5 issues within the room which can be a sure colour, or clench and launch your muscular tissues. 
  • Visualization: Think about a peaceable, calming scene, akin to a seashore or a forest, and attempt to image your self in that setting. 
  • Chilly publicity: Maintain a glass of ice water, suck on an ice dice, or splash your face with chilly water.

Keep in mind, having a poker face doesn’t imply suppressing your feelings or being robotic. It’s about being conscious of your facial expressions and physique language in an effort to talk successfully and obtain your objectives. Belief in your means to remain cool, calm, and picked up it doesn’t matter what challenges come your approach. 



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