Learn to adapt in difficult situations quickly

Untitled design (4)I was in a meeting recently with someone more senior having a great conversation. Everything was flowing. I was able to keep up and stay on the ball. Then he asked me one question and I answered it right away without much thinking. Suddenly, I felt everything go downhill from there. The meeting ended cordially, but with a little whimpering fizz at the end.

The problem wasn’t with the answer I gave, but how I provided it. I sounded so much like a junior. Of course, I need to figure out how to answer that question like someone with more experience would. But the point is that I caught it right after the meeting. Right then, I knew I had done something wrong. But also, I needed to do something about it. And be able to apply that fix the next time around. That’s adaptability.

I see so many people who continuously make the same mistakes over and over again. Then they complain that they never get raises or get promoted. They don’t realise that they’re making a glaring mistake, and that’s the worse part. Of course, being able to adapt is difficult. You need skills.

The way I see it, there are four levels of adaptability:

  1. Situational: Being able to adapt to a new job, situation, environment. When you’re in a new environment and you need to learn new skills. Get to knew new people and learn to do things differently.
  2. Event: Being able to learn from a mistake in a particular event. Learning from it and applying that new skill or fix the next time you’re put in that same situation.
  3. On a Dime: Being able to adapt to a particular mishap right away. Either you did something wrong, or the other party caught you by surprise. But either way, you recalculate and adapt to set the situation right again.
  4. Preemptiveness: Being able to adapt on the fly. Always have options to choose from as the conversation progresses. Being ready with more options before you get the response.

Everyone can do all the above to a certain degree depending on context and experience. But being able to learn on the fly is difficult. It requires a high level of awareness.

It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.

– Leon C. Megginson

How to Adapt

What I have learned so far to be able to adapt quickly is to be calm. This requires a good level of emotional intelligence. To be aware of your emotional state at all times. I also need to be able to set a pace to give myself time to think through my response. Sometimes I get caught up in the momentum of the conversation and don’t take control of the pace. Pace is what gives me control, power and time to think.  All this allows me to free my mind to pay attention to the conversation. But depending on the situation, the people I’m meeting and context, I sometimes forget. It’s something I need to work on.

How do you usually deal with these kinds of situations? What are some tricks you use to adapt?

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