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Melody Wilding, LMSW
Executive coach to sensitive high-achievers. Professor. Feat. NYT, NBC, CNN. Author of TRUST YOURSELF:

The Sensitive Striver

Real strategies that help my clients show up as their best selves—even in trying circumstances

Two women talking in a work setting
Photo by Alexander Suhorucov from Pexels

At one point or another, we’ve all lost our cool at work.

Perhaps you pulled an all-nighter to finish a project, only to feel distressed when it was criticized by a client. Or maybe a coworker failed to pull their weight and dumped their work on you at the last minute. These everyday workplace aggravations can make your blood boil. But there are some difficult conversations that tend to be the most stressful of all.

You know them well. These are the types of talks that require you to deliver bad news or negative feedback, make a demand such as…

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A new job, a new promotion, a new project…

You dream about these goals and you hatch plans to make them a reality. But you may also feel a degree of inner resistance.

Because you know that stepping into more responsibility at work will bring increased pressure. You worry about facing new challenges like:

  • Office politics
  • Dealing with more aggressive personalities
  • Having so much riding on your decisions and behaviors
  • Knowing that more people are counting on you

…Or a combination of all of the above.

You may wonder if you have the emotional fortitude to withstand the pressure of…

Strategies to help you get out of your own way

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You start the workweek ready to tackle your tasks, feeling confident … but then, it happens.

You don’t speak up during an important meeting, and the critical voice in your head starts up.

“You didn’t say anything. They’re going to think you’re not engaged. How could you let that opportunity go by?”

You try to brush it off. But then you catch a typo in a report you submitted. “How could I miss that? Can’t I get anything right?”

Add to this, the constant feeling that you have to attend every meeting, start work earlier, and finish work later than…

The Sensitive Striver

Unexpected meetings with a senior-ranking person can make anyone nervous—but it can also be a chance for you to shine

A smiling businessman in conversation with an employee.
Image credit: fizkes.

There are three simple words that can strike fear into the heart of almost any professional: “Can we talk?”

To illustrate, let me share an example. When I host workshops, I often ask attendees to share the first thing that goes through their minds when they hear this phrase. Some common responses are:

“Uh oh, what did I do wrong?”

“I must have made a mistake.”

“This is it. I’m getting fired.”

An unexpected meeting can make even the most self-assured leader nervous, particularly when the request comes from your boss or higher-ups. …

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Do you ever feel like a chameleon?

Like you spend your life trying to blend in, hiding your needs, your feelings, and your true personality?

By the time I finished college and grad school, I was the Queen Chameleon.

Growing up it became clear that I didn’t approach the world in the same way as everyone else. I was more deeply affected by everything happening both within and around me.

As a result, I thought there was something wrong with me, that my sensitive nature made me defective somehow. Negative comments from others (“stop taking everything so personally,” “grow a…

While it’s human to have emotions, emotional regulation is a key leadership behavior

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How do you stop yourself from crying at work?

This is a question one of my clients, Victoria, asked during coaching.

You see, Victoria was a professional powerhouse. Her determination, smarts, and savvy rocketed her to the top of the food and beverage industry. Victoria’s peers regarded her as influential within the company. This was further evidenced by a recent promotion to managing director of her division.

But in our first coaching session, Victoria sheepishly hung her head and said:

“I can’t stop myself from crying when there’s conflict. Any time I feel put under pressure, the waterworks start. …

The Sensitive Striver

Evaluate your delegation skills and learn how to become a more powerful leader

An office with one person pointing to a computer screen.
Photo by Jonathan Borba from Pexels

As kind-hearted, empathetic leaders, Sensitive Strivers tend to be reluctant to ask for help or delegate to others. Many feel it is their duty to protect their team’s time and energy, so they absorb responsibilities instead.

And as people-pleasers, these Sensitive Strivers are worried about people not liking them or others getting upset and resentful over delegation requests.

“I know I should ask for help, but I don’t want to be pushy.”

“My team already has enough to do.”

“I hate asking people to do things.”

These are a few of the responses I hear from my Sensitive Striver coaching…

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Picture it: you’ve just been given great feedback after completing a challenging project.

What’s your reaction?

Do you:

A. Soak up the praise. After all, you’re smart, capable, and you’ve worked hard. You deserve every compliment coming your way. You can’t wait to get started on the next project.


B. Shrink from the attention. You’re convinced that it was a fluke and that you’re a one-hit-wonder. You shift the praise onto co-workers, even though you carried the team. And the next project? How on earth are you going to hit that level of success twice in a row?


How to recover more quickly and shine like the competent professional you are.

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No one likes criticism about their work. But being hypersensitive to criticism can feel like a burden you constantly carry.

Whether you’re getting input about how a slide deck could be improved, hearing that leadership isn’t on board with your idea, or otherwise speaking up and putting yourself out there — it can be difficult to separate a person’s response from your own self-worth.

Throughout your career, you’ll always be given feedback in some form or another. …

The Sensitive Striver

Reflection is an important leadership skill—but the danger is that it can tip over into self-destructive rumination

People in a meeting
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How do I stop second-guessing myself?

This was a question one of my clients, Sarah, came to coaching with.

Sarah was an accomplished manager and executive. During her career, she had earned two PhDs and over the course of twenty years, worked her way from the legal department to director of business development at a luxury retail company.

One year earlier, the CEO had tasked Sarah with starting a sub-division within the business development department to focus specifically on innovation. This meant her team was responsible for creating and implementing cutting-edge strategies to modernize the company’s marketing and distribution channels.

Melody Wilding, LMSW

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