Can I avoid going blank in difficult conversations?

Dear Jutta,

I am a project manager and very passionate about my work. The director of our division has asked me to join him for a difficult meeting with clients – a great opportunity to raise my profile. I know that my expertise and knowledge can really make a difference, and yet I am rather anxious about it.

I am an introvert and not great in meetings. My mind went blank several times in the past when I had a difficult conversation. Even though I am usually well prepared, I don’t always have good answers on questions. Relaxation techniques and mindfulness help a lot, and still I am anxious about going blank again. I have nightmares about questions I can’t answer. Probably I even miss some important information, because I constantly worry about what I could say once they’ve finished talking.

I wonder if you could give me a tip on how to avoid going blank – or at least some advice on how to memorise facts better so that I won’t forget them in meetings?

(Project Manager)


Dear Catriona,

What a great opportunity indeed, supporting your director and making a difference with your expertise. I can sense your passion and also how much you are worrying about the upcoming meeting.


Two helpful strategies when you go blank

1. Distract your brain. Don’t try desperately to find an answer. Concentrate on other things or the people around you: the sound of the traffic outside, the colours of a bag on the table, the smell of coffee, the touch of the pen you are holding in your hand. You can even pinch yourself. This helps your brain stop with “over-analysing”.

2. Tell them, own it. This happens all the time, to extroverts and introverts. How can you find the courage to own it? What could help? Who could support you?

Don’t hide. When you fall, get up again,
dust yourself off and crack on.


You can check Chris MacLeod’s excellent website and find more useful techniques and strategies for going blank.


…and yet, that’s just a part of the solution

I also want to encourage you to explore the underlying cause of going blank. The actual question is: Why is it so important to have answers on all the questions?

You mentioned that you want to raise your profile and you are talking quite negatively about being an introvert. Do you think that this is a flaw that needs to be concealed? Actually, the very fact that you come so well prepared reveals that you are probably an introvert. Cliché extroverts tend to improvise on the go and are often less prepared than introverts. So, if you want to “hide”, there might be better strategies…  But I don’t want you to hide.

Get out there and have conversations
in your own, authentic way.

You don’t need to become an extrovert
in order to raise your profile and be successful.

There is a reason why your director has asked you to be on the meeting. You have mentioned your expertise. Perhaps your director knows that you are a good listener and observer? That you are the one who focuses on targets, being able to lead a chatty meeting back on track?

Could you ask him?


Discover and own your talents

Being an “introvert” is just a “box”, a label. I know many introverts and they are all different. We are all one of a kind, and we are all needed with our talents. What are your unique talents – extroverts talk about “super powers”?

Who could you ask? Your manager? Colleagues ? A good friend? Your partner ?

Could you talk to your director before the meeting? Show him that you can be a manager AND a team player: that you can think strategically, focussing on results AND supporting him with focus on relationships. Ask him about your role at the meeting, his strategy, his challenges and how you can support him best. After a good conversation with him in advance it is less likely that you will go blank during your meeting.

Don’t forget: The world needs you and your talents.
Don’t hide, just because the road gets bumpy.


If you like books you could also read

“Quiet – The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking”, by Susan Cain.

All the best,



Hi you, thanks for reading this. Please share your thoughts.

Does your mind ever go blank in difficult conversations?
What do you do? Any tips  you want to share? Please leave a comment here.



© Text: Jutta Nedden, Lead & Connect, 10/2017

Image credits:

1. Pinterest:

2. (Tortoise hiding)


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