Your top performer just quit. Your big client is ending their contract. You've caught an employee stealing from the company. Anger, resentment, and disappointment are rushing through you. All you want to do is scream, yell, maybe even break down in tears. 

It's moments like these that will define you as a leader--no pressure. People in charge will inevitably encounter hardships that are completely out of their control. Not only is it your job to deal with it, but also to fix, overcome, and surpass it. 

A leader that is quick to react is far from a force, but rather a weakness. It's a surefire way to attract resignation letters, alienate your executive team, and earn a bad reputation that no one will want to work with, or for. 

And big reactions aren't the only thing you need to get in check. Many leaders are unaware of how their subtle reactions, or micro-expressions, can affect their team. Eye rolls, exaggerated exhales, and other passive aggressive gestures are equally as damaging. 

Learning how to mask your emotions is no easy feat. It can takes years of practice until you finally feel like you're in the driver's seat. However, it's a critical skill that you'll harness for years to come. 

That's why your ability to appear in control will be one of your most valuable skill sets. If you wear your heart on your sleeve, it's time to roll them up and get a process in place when emotions arise.

So the next time you receive devastating, infuriating, or disappointing news, try these five tactics to master your poker face:

1. Breathe.

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. 

2. Check your face.

Are you blinking rapidly? Are your eyebrows furrowed in a disapproving glare? Has your jaw hit the floor?

When you're falling apart internally, cue into your facial expressions. Release any tension that your body is automatically displaying and come back to your center point.

3. Take a minute.

If the current issue at hand has left you speechless, then simply don't say anything. We have a tendency to avoid silences. As a result, we mindlessly fill the air with words that we may regret later.

It's perfectly acceptable to thank the person for bringing this information to your attention, and that you need time to process it. Then step away, analyze, and decide the next step. 

4. Go to your happy place.

Not all of us are naturally calm, rational, and even-keeled. People in charge tend to be passionate and reactive, making their ability to control their poker face easier said than done.

If you fall in this latter category, it's time to get creative. When your starting to feel like you're starting to come undone, picture something or someone that automatically brings you joy. Whether it's your kids, your pet, or a favorite vacation spot, send your mind elsewhere until you regain control.

5. Vent.

You're a human being, not a robot. Pent-up emotions will set the foundation for a future outburst that you'll be kicking yourself for later. 

This doesn't mean you pull a colleague aside and start spilling the beans. Choose someone you can confide in confidentially that's completely removed from work. Whether it's your partner, best friend, or therapist, talking it out will instantly bring rationale and perspective.

Published on: Oct 21, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.