Are you Polly Poise or Freak-Out Fred?

Anxous manI recently taught a social skills etiquette class to some high school students from Puget Sound Community School. One of the topics I covered was poise. I asked my students what poise meant to them. They replied “good posture”, “being confident” and “grace”. While those are part of poise there is more to it.

I shared with them that poise is also handling difficult situations without falling apart. I told them to think about someone who got some disappointing or difficult news like learning they didn’t get the lead in the school play. A poised person would be sad but they wouldn’t have a meltdown as if the world had come to an end. Even more, a poised person would congratulate the person who did get the lead in the play.

I had to laugh as I was teaching this because I have had my share of unpoised, coming unglued moments. So much so that today my husband will sometimes keep something from me until it’s resolved.

A funny (in hindsight) example of a freak-out moment occurred many years ago when my husband and I were celebrating our first wedding anniversary. We decided to ride our bikes from the Orcas Island ferry to Doe Bay, a hippyish place with flimsy cabins and hot tubs that called for being au naturel. Eric, my husband, loaded the bikes on our Honda Civic and after the long drive to Anacortes we unloaded the bikes only to discover the tire on my bike had blown because it had been placed too close to the exhaust pipe on the car. We didn’t have another tire. I fretted, I fumed, I worried, I reacted, I flipped out and I questioned – what were we going to do? It was the end of the world I was sure of it. My husband stayed calm and put a dollar bill inside the tire to keep the inner tube from pushing through the hole. He then asked the ferry workers if he could use some duct tape to further reinforce the hole. He was sure all was good, I continued to fret. As we got off the ferry he told me to ride slow in case the tire blew. He didn’t want me to get thrown off my bike. Great, this only added to my worry.

Anyway, long story short, we finally made it to Eastsound, a town with a bike shop. We purchased a new tire and as we were approaching the parked bike the old tire blew. Blam! The inner tube had finally worked its way out of the dollar-bill-duct-tape-reinforced hole. But, I was not on the bike, the tire had held until we stopped and the world did not come to an end.

Why do I lose all grace and fall apart when these things happen? I think it’s because I become consumed by the emotional situation and lose all rational thought – as if the world is coming to an end. But as we all know, life is full of challenges and it is the person who handles these challenges with poise that has an easier time, and those around her or him have an easier time too. I’m learning to let go and trust all will be well. Thankfully, for the most part, my poor husband is the only one who suffers my unpoised moments. Thanks for understanding honey!

What about you? Are you a poised person? Are you able to handle difficult situations with grace and confidence or do you tend to have meltdowns? If you are Polly Poise, how do you keep your poise in difficult situations? Freak-out Fredwina would like to know.

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>

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