Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Some of us have developed personal mantras that have a powerful, albeit private meaning.  These mantras can prove to be very useful in times of frustration, stress, or quite frankly, when we’re sick and tired of hearing another complaint.  Sometimes we can fall into a trap and get…well…LOUD.  That is easy for me to do.


I’ve always found it curious that effective interpersonal skills are often called soft skills.  Odd really, when you think about it.  For those of us that have been exposed to extremely difficult leaders who consider an abrasive leadership style a strength, soft is about the last word that comes to mind.  So, why when these moments are handled well does the term “soft” come in to play?


One of the things I find fascinating when emotions are running high is the apparent correlation between the level of stress in a person and the tone of their voice.  The more frantic they are, the higher the voice.  This is where the first half of my mantra comes in to play – LOW.  I need to maintain a low tone of voice.  That is hard for me to do.


A companion to the shrill that comes with emotionally charged exchanges is what appears to be a gene that triggers our rate of speech when we’re upset.  The more intense the encounter, the faster we speak.  As if getting our position out first means we win! Crazy, I know.  Enter the second half of my little mantra – SLOW.  I need to maintain a slow rate of speech.  If you speak slowly, you-control-the-pace-of-the-conversation.  That is hard for me to do too.


Sounds simple doesn’t it?  For me, it has been a life long struggle to maintain Low and Slow.  In these intense moments the hockey coach in me wants to come out; and, I allow myself on the inside to check the other person into the boards.  

But on the outside, it HAS to be Low and Slow. 



How do you get through those moments when you would prefer to commit a felony rather than work through the real issues on the table?  How do you keep yourself in check so you don’t lose the respect of those around you?  What is your mantra?

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Pics courtesy of and


  1. First, I have to commend you for sharing your ideas. I want all new HR generalists to read your blog and learn a lesson I did pretty early in my matter how high you get in the chain of command, we're all just people. People with the same fears and the same need to self-evaluate. I love that you pick apart your own propensity for a certain behavior and remind yourself "slow and low". I love the honesty in the post.

    I don't know if I've ever had a mantra. Whenever my family celebrates anything and we toast with wine, they always say the same toast..."Trisha's the queen". But, I guess that's not a mantra. would probably be something that changes as I change. Lately, mine has been "Meet people where they are". Meaning, that in order to persuade or influence anyone you need to meet them at their comfort level, not yours.

    Great post! Made me think.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Trisha. I have been very fortunate to move along in my career, and with that comes a great deal of responsibility. Using Low and Slow has helped me keep myself grounded many more times than I can count. I appreciate you taking the time to comment!

  3. Jay, great post! Here's the other side of the same coin. I was a cop before getting into HR, and I learned quickly to maintain a flat affect and demeanor in stressful situations - it was often times the difference between getting cooperation, or getting into a fight. Too much control in the HR world can result in people perceiving you as unemotional, and uncaring - I've gotten that valuable feedback (especially in health care). I try to balance keeping things under control with keeping them real. I think Trisha is right; if it's an emotional issue for the other person, we have to talk about the emotions.

  4. Thanks William. Great points, and let me add a comment. My Low and Slow strategy has helped me stay in control, but does allow for me to connect with the other person depending on the situation. If they need support, I can "be" there. If however they are being released and are angry, it's an approach that allows me to avoid getting caught up in their negative energy. Your insights from serving in law enforcement must give you a very interesting perspective in your HR practice!