Developing Poise: Keeping Your Cool When Things Get Hot

Developing Poise: Keeping Your Cool When Things Get HotDeveloping Poise: Keeping Your Cool When Things Get Hot

EXPOSE  |  Poking at Poise

Can you take a reprimand without blowing up? Can you take a turndown without being visibly discouraged? Can you laugh with the others when the joke is on you? Can you keep your spirits up when things go wrong? Can you keep cool in emergencies?  The natural leader answers all these with a confident yes.” – Donald A. Laird (quoted in “The 5 T’s of Mastering the Art of Poise”)

EXPLORE  |  Steady… NOW! 

Poise is profound.  It means being stirred but not shaken.  Like the soldier in the picture… still ‘sword up’ even in the face of ‘enormous shoe-sized odds’.  It is the only thing I can think of that allows you be a force while remaining still.

We’ll find poise defined as “a dignified, self-confident manner or bearing; composure; self-possession.”  But Earl Wilson provides a little more insight into how it actually feels: “…the ability to be ill at ease inconspicuously.”

There is a certain tension with being poised.  We are required to remain focused, steadfast, and perseverant, in the midst of a situation that is asking more from us than we feel we possess.  Recall the scene from the movie Braveheart where William Wallace is directing his clan during the Battle of Stirling Bridge as the English race toward them on horseback… “steady… hold… hold… HOLD… HOLD… NOOOOOOOOOWWW!!!”

There is a right time to wait.  There is a right time to act.  This sensibility is an underlying trait of wisdom.  You certainly need to know what to do, but it requires that it be coupled with when it should be done.

EXECUTE  |  Powerfully Poised

How do we gain this command of composure and timing?  Before we get into some practical ways to develop poise, I’d like to introduce a few foundational thoughts.

Don’t let feelings lead.

I didn’t say, ‘don’t feel.’  But what we need to address is the position we give our feelings.  They need to be present, but they just can’t lead.

…composure is…a deep-rooted strength that is irreplaceable. You’re not a slave to your emotions. They are contained and controlled in the healthiest way… Poise is the balance of strength and elegance… It’s in the way you walk with confidence, in the way you move with a gentle ease, and in the way the tone of your voice is both calming and sure.“- Annie, Living Charm blog

Quick to listen, slow to speak… 

… and be even slower to anger (James 1:19).  Lead with listening, and we’ll be less likely to speak.  A closed mouth can sometimes make all the difference.  Not to mention the role in plays in leading us to anger.  Mouth closed.  Ears (and heart) open.

You are from God… and have overcome… 

Poise is most necessary in trying circumstances.  But trying circumstances can overwhelm.  Fear not, as we remember that …greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).  The war is won, the battle requires us to depend on the Force greater than anything we will encounter.

The Poise of Jesus

I came across a couple of descriptions of the poise that Jesus displayed.  It is both an inspiriation, but a reminder that we can realize divine poise in the power of the Spirit.

It is an interesting fact that though Jesus was speaking constantly in public for three years, not one of his enemies was able to catch him in his speech, and when at last they convicted him they had to do it on a trumped-up lie. This also is noteworthy that not one of the enemies of Jesus was able by unfairness or falsehood or hatred to push Jesus into a hasty word or an unrighteous mood. Most men are so poorly balanced you can push them with very little pressure . . . into an unchristian disposition. Jesus was so firmly poised that under the pressure of the most venomous vituperation that has ever been hurled against a man, he stood erect, unmoved, and immovable. His poise was divine.” – (as quoted from The Character of Jesus by Charles Edward Jefferson)

There is a grace about him which does not fade, there is a sanity about him which compels respect, there is a charm about him which woos and wins the heart…” – (as quoted from The Character of Jesus by Charles Edward Jefferson)

Practical Tips for Developing Poise

One source that offers us some good tips on developing poise comes from The Art of Manliness.  Brett and Kate McKay focus on Donald Laird’s recommendations for increasing poise in their article “The 5 T’s of Art of Poise”.  There are three that I would like to highlight:

Think About the Other Person“.  Thinking about them keeps us from thinking about ourselves, which keeps us from being self-conscious and becoming unnecessarily nervous.

The natural leader has power over others because they can sense that he is thinking about them.” – Donald Laird

Take Slow, Deep Breaths“.  As you wait to speak, breath.  Slowly.

When your voice begins to rise, poise starts to leave. Take two deep breaths and lower your voice.” – Donald Laird

Talk Your Troubles Over“.  This can definitely dial down the anxiety you may be feeling, whigh works against our need to be poised.  The other suggestions that Laird makes help address the symptoms, but doesn’t remove the cause.

The cause, that feeling of uncertainty, needs to be removed…Concealed disappointments, suppressed worries, and restrained tantrums create a backwash that sweeps poise out to sea.” – Donald Laird

In her article “6 Tips for Creating Confidence and Poise”, Hilary has one tip that relates to the first thoughts I shared on poise.  Ask yourself, “what’s the worst that can happen?”

Asking yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” will help you get a realistic picture of potential consequences, which turn out to be less dire than what we first thought.” – Hilary Hutchinson

The bottom line is that we have every reason to be powerfully poised:

The Christian faith makes it possible for us nobly to accept that which cannot be changed, and to meet disappointments and sorrow with an inner poise, and to absorb the most intense pain without abandoning our sense of hope.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Further Reading:

the 5 t’s of mastering the art of poise

poise: daily word devotional

what is poise

the poise of Jesus

6 tips for creating confidence and poise

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