By Maria Valdez Haubrich

I went to see the movie Win Win a few weeks ago. The movie focuses on a high school wrestler; in one of the scenes, the main character in the story asks his father figure to hit him across the head before a big wrestling match. The father doesn’t want to, but the kid tells him he needs to ramp up before his big competition. A slap in the face is what gets him psyched up to do his best.

As the mother of an autistic 10-year-old, I’ve often had to psych myself up for difficult situations, whether it involves getting services for my son at school, taking him to the doctor or just persuading him to try a new activity. The persistence and patience I’ve needed has taught me a lot of lessons I’ve been able to carry over as a business owner.

Lesson 1. It’s OK to freak out. To yourself, of course. Or you can freak out to your business partner, spouse, best friend or whoever is a good sounding board. A good freak-out can clear your head of all the what-ifs and negatives about the situation, so you can move on to the next step.

Lesson 2. Use social stories. When you’re trying to get your autistic child to do something unknown, the experts suggest using social stories so he or she can get an idea of what could happen in a new situation. For example: “We will walk into the doctor’s office and the nurse will call us in and take your temperature.” In business, I use it as: “I will call the client and he will probably say this, to which I will answer like this.” In other words, I try to think of all the ways the situation could possibly go, and have a ready reply to each. You never want to get caught saying, “Uhhhhhh…”

Lesson 3. Choose your words carefully. As my business’s Chief Liaison Officer, I try to live up to my title and make our correspondence appropriate and friendly, and help my partners to do the same. I know firsthand that saying something the wrong way can be misinterpreted easily and change the whole tone of the conversation—for the worse.

Lesson 4. Feel the vibe. Is the conversation going well? Is the situation going your way? If not, stop and plan to talk again later. If it’s going well, keep plowing ahead and eventually you’ll get the response you were hoping for. If you can’t quite get there, try to ask for some kind of positive commitment: “So you’ll see what you can do to help me?” “So you’ll consider what I’m offering?”

Lesson 5. If the situation calls for it, get tough. My younger sister has a bulldog personality. She fights for what she wants and usually gets it. It’s a gift, and I wish I had more of her characteristics, but I’m no pushover and if I’m put in a situation where I need to get tough, I will. If it’s important enough, find the strength to pull out all the stops.

What gets you psyched up for a big event or a big confrontation? We’d love to hear.