Worldwide, women are thought by men and other women to be highly emotional, sensitive and reactive. In fact, many cultures (think parts of the Middle East and Africa) believe that all women are hysterical and are likely to behave in irrational and illogical ways when given the opportunity. This kind of stereotype has been used to oppress, demean and marginalize women for years.
Obviously, it is unfair and inaccurate to paint a broad brush and call all women hysterical, but there seems to be an element of truth to the sexist stereotype that women are more emotional than men. Women are more sensitive to negative emotions, according to one study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology and conducted by researchers at the Institut Universitaire en Santé Mentale de Montréal and the University of Montreal. Researchers found that subtle differences in brain function affect how the sexes respond to negative imagery.
Sex differences in the stressful reactions to coping with negative daily life events also have been found (Matud, 2004), and observation data of women’s written and verbal behavior tends to find women express more negative emotions than men do (e.g., Burke et al., 1976; Levenson et al., 1994)
– From the article “Are Women More Emotional Than Men?”
It’s reasonable to conclude that women can be more emotional than men at times. But here’s my question: Now that we know that women can be more emotional, should this fact define our reality as women? There must be a way that we can co-exist (and even thrive!) with men without helplessly succumbing to the ups and downs of our emotions. In my own life, I have felt overwhelmed by a surge of emotions at work or with friends and family. For me, those moments come and go occasionally, but I recognize that many women struggle to maintain their composure under stress. So what can be done?
I recommend that women take a professional public relations approach to keeping cool under stress, where they understand that their primary objective is to uphold a respected public profile at all costs. You can react in private in your own way, but in public, you need to stay calm. Having worked professionally in communications for many years, I understand that image is everything since the impressions you make on others dictate the kind of opportunities you may have access to later. One bad blowup can cost you a job, friendship or opportunity in the future, so it is important for your own sake to stay calm when faced with stress. On top of all of this, there something wonderful to be said about a woman who can maintain her cool under pressure.
I was motivated to write about this subject when I saw an interview with the very polished and articulate Omarosa Manigault, the reality television villain and current director of communications for the Trump Administration’s Office of Public Liaison. Not long ago, Omarosa kept her cool when she appeared on the television show “The View,” despite facing combative and catty behavior from many co-hosts on that show. By going on that show, she knew that she was walking into a storm of hate and accusations, but Omarosa succeeded because she followed many basic crisis communications principles (learn more about crisis communications from PRSA).
If you would like to learn how to stay calm under stress, you can apply many of the same four crisis communications principles below to a stressful situation as well:
I’ll outline these principles by using Omarosa’s appearance on The View as an example.
Omarosa probably watched “The View” before appearing on the show to get a better understanding of the show’s co-hosts and the kind of questions they would ask. She has probably heard of Joy Behar, and her habit of becoming overly emotional and unprofessional during conversations. Joy Behar has a habit of cutting off guests when they speak, so Omarosa likely prepared for that kind of immature behavior. Omarosa also likely learned ahead of time that many of the talk show hosts are liberal, so she prepared for that also. I know that Omarosa prepared for hostile dialogue because she taunted Joy Behar at one point by telling her that “I know it’s gotta be really hard after the last year and a half, of all the things that you said about Donald to see him sitting in the Oval Office.” Ha!
We can all adopt this principle. Understand your stress limits and decide whether you can handle a stressful environment before you go into it. Omarosa can handle an environment like “The View,” but many other people could not handle a situation that hostile.
Having worked in communications for several years, I am sure that Omarosa and a team of her colleagues worked together to prepare a number of taking points before her interview. Work with other people who support you when you are under stress (or preparing for a stressful situation).
Work and repeat your talking points (or your story) until you understand the points backwards and forwards. Say the points until you believe them in your soul. Then go into your stressful situation knowing that you are right and the other side is always wrong. Effective public relations is all about repetition, repetition, repetition. If you falter on your points, you lose.
Step out of the crisis or stressful event for a second and realize that it is not the end of the world. Whether you lose your job, or lose a boyfriend or get into an argument with a friend, the world will keep chugging along. In the case of Omarosa, she probably went into the debate understanding that the opinions of the talk show hosts do not matter in the long run. Joy Behar talks for a living, and she does not dictate federal policy. Behar’s opinions are almost completely irrelevant to Omarosa’s livelihood. Understand when you are in a stressful environment that you can only control so much. The moment will pass eventually.
Understand your own story and your own motivations, then communicate them clearly. Omarosa repeated the same points throughout the interview, and spoke slowly and directly to her audience. Make sure that you own your own points when faced during a crisis.
Any other tips for staying calm under pressure? Or just think Omarosa was wrong for defending herself? Tell us in the comments below.