It’s funny how frequently people introduce me as an anger management specialist. It used to puzzle me, because I didn’t think of myself that way.
But I get it now: When I help you express disagreement and negotiate more effectively, I’m also helping you manage your emotional state better.
Here, then, are my three simplest tricks for calming down during disagreements at work or home. I use them myself and for helping others manage their anger, whether I’m helping from the mediator’s chair, the coach’s chair, or the organizational consultant’s chair:
Breathe. Deep breaths oxygenate your blood and stimulate your body to release endorphins. When you’re stressed, you may tend to take short, shallow breaths instead of the deep belly breaths that help relieve anxiety. When you want to calm yourself down, take 3-5 minutes and do ten big belly breaths (your belly should go out when you breathe in). If you feel absurd, go stand in the restroom stall.
Distract yourself. Take a break from the conversation and apply my Conflict Hack. You’ll need at least 30 minutes, research suggests. It’s time worth taking, since continuing when you’re losing your temper just doesn’t help anyone.
Use a centering question. Some folks find a mantra helpful. I find a simple question I can answer for myself to be more useful. The general idea behind both is that you give your mind the chance to focus on something other than the tension and anxiety, giving your body a chance to get over the emotional hijacking. The right question has the added power of offering you some worthwhile insight at the same time.
What simple tricks do you use to calm yourself down during or after disagreements and other conflict? Please leave a comment to share what works.