When conversations get heated, staying calm can be a challenge. From a disagreement with a coworker to a conflict with your teen, letting our tempers get the best of us seldom accomplishes anything and usually leads to saying things we wish we hadn’t.
Managing conflict during difficult circumstances is an important life skill. While flying off the handle may generate shock and fear in those around you, your judgment, credibility and poise also take a hit when you lose control of your emotions.
The next time you sense a meltdown brewing, employ these 6 techniques to maintain your composure.
Take a break.
The more agitated you get and the higher tempers flare, the greater the risk of saying or doing things you’ll regret. If you find yourself getting emotional, step away from the situation until you’ve had a chance to calm down: “I need to think about this. Let’s reconvene later to work this out.” However, to avoid future showdowns, commit to resolving the issue when it presents itself instead of letting it linger.
Don’t get personal.
If you are debating with a coworker, stay focused on the issue, not the people involved. Feel free to critique ideas, but avoid making it a personal attack. Disrespecting someone’s character, ability or objective is going to reflect worse on you than the other person. Similarly, if someone else violates this rule, call them on it: “This kind of dialogue is not going to help solve the problem. Let’s talk more after we have both calmed down.”
Step into the other person’s shoes.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood; it’s one of Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Voices rise when each side is so focused on trying to tell their side of the story that they don’t stop to listen to what the other person is saying. Often great strides are often made toward resolving a conflict when you simply listen to the other person, then repeat back what you heard to confirm. Letting the other person know you hear what they’re saying can work wonders in solving problems. Ask them for their ideas on finding a solution to the dilemma.
Identify your triggers.
Examine your behavior patterns closely to see if there are certain things that routinely set you off. Once you identify situations that seem to frustrate you repeatedly, do what you can to steer clear of the stressor. Knowing you will probably feel your blood pressure rise in a committee meeting will allow you to process your emotions with intention.
If your “fight or flight” response has kicked in, take a deep breath. Focus on neutralizing your facial expression – don’t display a furrowed brow or rolling eyes. If you can remain composed, it may help the other person stay cool –resulting in a more positive interaction.
Make de-stressing a priority.
Add healthy habits that counteract stress to your daily routine. That includes getting enough sleep, eating healthfully, exercising and meditation or deep breathing exercises. All of these activities will help lessen the impact of stress on your body and mind while better equipping you for dealing with it head-on.