Communicating authentically and with clarity can be a challenge for many. Communication can break down quickly, particularly when difficulties surface during high-stakes conversations. Whether it is a disagreement between investors, partners, employees, or customers, every aspect of business has the potential to be entrenched in conflict. People often lack the emotional intelligence, and comfort to interact with one another when the stakes are high. Personality clashes, differences of opinions and prolonging significant conversations can lead to disastrous outcomes that negatively influence every aspect of your bottom line.

The solution lies in your commitment to focus on improving critical communication skills such as practicing self-regulation, showing empathy and awareness of personal tendencies when the going gets tough. Life will persistently present us with challenges and difficult conversations with others. A poorly handled disagreement damages relationships and can permanently tarnish your reputation. Over time, sustained and unresolved conflicts may cause stress-related illnesses, not only affecting your performance at work but also your long-term mental and physical well-being.

It is not uncommon to feel like you are being attacked during a heated interaction. You may want to retaliate and react emotionally and defensively instead of responding calmly and professionally. Reactive behavior, such as anger, blaming, and finger pointing may feel good at the time but lashing out will always come back to haunt you. Here are three common pitfalls to avoid during high-stakes conversations:

1. Your actions originate from a place of fear.

When you react from a place of fear you are operating in a non-resourceful manner. A part of the brain called the amygdala is activated, and the body goes into "survival mode." This is referred to as the fight, flight or freeze response. The critical thinking part of the brain (the prefrontal cortex) is shut down, and therefore, logical thinking is secondary to survival. Cultivating emotional composure and resiliency is crucial so that when the situation calls for it, you have the strength to respond versus react. You can do this by changing your perspective. Try letting go of fear and anxiety by taking a few deep breaths, or even step away from the situation if needed. With regular practice, meditation can help tame your reactive side and shift you into a more equitable state of mind.

2. You ignore your intuition.

Often, you know in your heart that what someone is asking of you is not realistic -- nor something you wish to do. Ignoring your inner voice is never a good idea. Maybe you'd rather not rock the boat or displease a client. Despite a nagging feeling that you should discuss an issue further, you may choose to accept unreasonable goals or terms. Making impractical decisions that involve others can also be seriously damaging. It puts them in a precarious position, as well. If your intuition is crying out for further clarification, or recalibration of a situation, listen and take action.

3. You take things personally.

This is a tough one, without a doubt. A large portion of your identity is directly related to your work -- and if you are unfairly accused or misunderstood it can be difficult to contain your emotions. Falling into the trap of thinking that criticism is "all about you" is natural, but it is also misplaced. The person in "attack mode" may simply be having a bad day, enduring stress, or having difficulties at home. There are times when you end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and in the line of fire. However, you have the choice to take responsibility and accountability for your actions and decisions. When things cool down, attempt to clarify the situation. We all have diverse life circumstances, perspectives, and forms of communicating. In some cases, the person may not have realized how harsh or discourteous their words and actions were to you -- but they were driven by their own emotions. When you are mindful of your individual responses and feelings -- as well as the emotions of others -- you learn to roll with the punches and settle into a calmer, more levelheaded temperament, allowing you to navigate high-stakes conversations with greater ease.

Published on: Aug 30, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.