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We Have to Breathe Anyway

We Have to Breathe Anyway

“Every time the conversation in meetings turns to that topic, the tension in the room rises and no one can contribute productively anymore”. This was the complaint of a client of mine in a recent coaching conversation. “How can I calm myself down and help everybody else calm down, so we can get back on track?” “Take a deep breath,” I suggested. “In fact, take three deep breaths.”

We know that deep breathing soothes the nervous system, and moves us out of our emotionally reactive reptilian brain back to a more relaxed state. We know that doing so helps us to broaden our field of attention and think more clearly when we are stressed. We know that mindfulness techniques and ancient meditation practices are grounded in purposeful breathing. So why not bring the benefits of this simple but powerful action into our work lives?

We have to breathe anyway. We may as well get the most value from it. 

The benefits of purposeful breathing are not limited to reducing stress. I was discussing with a client the positive impact of slowing down her pace in key meetings, to allow her business clients in the room to better understand her ideas, as well as to more fully express their priorities and concerns. 

Her thinking and personality style featured fast communication and processing; her clients’ preferred style was more methodical, thorough, reflective, and slow. “So, what can I do about that? ” she asked me, exasperated. “I can’t change them.” “Well,” I responded, “you might try taking a few deep breaths. Take deep breaths after you ask a question, to allow the question to steep and give them time to think.” We also talked about how taking a few slow, deep breaths would help her get through the seemingly endless silence during which her important stakeholders can think clearly and undisturbed. Since that conversation, this simple process has been working very well for her. 

I suspect that many of you reading this have significant experience related to the benefits of breathing, whether through yoga, meditation, stress management, or other practices. My knowledge about this is increasing, and perhaps more importantly, my experience with this is not only helping me personally, but is also allowing me to help others gain the benefits of this remarkably simple practice.