Fight or flight. It's modern-day jargon for the way - using either aggression or withdrawal - we react to perceived threats. Robert Redenbach, developer of a proprietary unarmed combat method in the 1990s, author and motivational speaker to corporate groups, doesn't spend a lot of time talking about flight. His specialty is fight: how to deal with the physical symptoms of fear, how to hit back and, most importantly, how to maintain a sense of yourself and your goals in high-pressure situations. He has developed a perspective that is not for the meek, and he has some top tips for today's corporate warriors. Few members of Redenbach's business audiences face the prospect of direct physical danger. But many of them are fascinated by the idea of adapting military combat techniques to the theatre that is today's workplace.
After six years in the Australian Army, Redenbach spent 20 years running training courses for private and national security forces in Papua New Guinea, Alice Springs, South Africa, Los Angeles and the Middle East. His unarmed physical combat program, Kontact, was distilled out of three years spent practising martial arts in South Korea, Japan, China and India.
Redenbach describes a high-stress situation as one where there's a risk of loss and a possibility of gain - a definition that, in a corporate setting, runs the gamut from hostile argument to genteel negotiation. "If you want to be able to control confrontation well, you have to be able to make a decision, go out there, be bold and see what happens," he says.
One of the problems many people have when dealing with stressful situations, says Redenbach, is accepting fear. "Fear is a natural part of your survival mechanism," he observes. "It will influence your performance. That's actually a good thing. It makes you stronger, makes you faster, and increases your pain tolerance level.
"What also happens - especially with alpha males - is that they almost prepare themselves for failure by not acknowledging the realities of fear. One of those realities is that it restricts body movement and inhibits mental and physical co-ordination."
One application of Redenbach's tactics to the office environment is the realisation that fancy vocabulary won't help in a confrontation. You need to focus on the linguistic equivalent of gross motor skills - easy-to-remember words that will cool the other person down, or help extract you from the situation, if that's what you want.
Another approach is to focus on your opponent's pain or fear, not on your own. This technique has enormous value "as long as you don't let your ego get in the way". Don't exaggerate the suffering of the other party, in other words. Says Redenbach: "If I stop and think, 'this person is scared of me' the moment I do that I'm shifting my focus to them. This will influence the way you talk, the way you have eye contact."
- Physical reactions to fear will differ depending on the situation. You might have a racing heart beat, shaking hands, clammy skin or a dry mouth.
- It's impossible to predict what progression the symptoms will take but you will certainly lose the ability to perform fine-motor skills.
- Your ability to remember information will be reduced.
- Extreme fear will reduce some of your senses, for example your vision might improve but you might not hear well.
© Fairfax Business Media
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