In any business conversation, meeting, or discussion, there is the potential for people to become upset or angered by something said by another person. Sometimes this occurs due to a past interaction between the individuals, or sometimes it is simply a trigger that creates a sense of frustration, anger, embarrassment, or humiliation by someone in the group.
It is also not uncommon to feel attacked, betrayed, misunderstood, or even ignored in these types of meetings or discussions. Whether intentional or not, when these things happen, it is easy to lose our cool and react in ways we later regret.
There are steps to take to help you keep your cool even in challenging and difficult conversations. Practicing these strategies will build confidence and competence to use when situations become hotter than expected in any type of conversation.
Breathe In, Breathe Out
The old saying about taking ten deep breaths is actually an effective strategy to calm the mind and create focus on the present moment. You don’t need to take 10 breaths, but inhaling through the nose for the count of 5 and then a deep exhale to the count of 5 helps to flood the blood with oxygen, which in turn assists with brain focus and the ability to regulate emotional states.
When you get upset, your breathing tends to become rapid and shallow, which reduces the amount of oxygen and puts your body into the fight or flight reaction.
A quick mindfulness or grounding exercise is the 5-4-3-2-1 process. You can do this in a meeting or a conversation and no one will know you are taking a little mental time-out. Start by taking a deep breath and exhaling, and then look at 5 objects in the room. Do not judge or mentally comment on them; just notice they are there. Feel 4 things with your body (chair, pencil, table, cool air, etc.) Listen for 3 things, try to notice 2 scents or smells in the air, and taste 1 thing on your tongue.
After this, take a deep breath and focus on what you want to say, not on responding to the comment or issue that created the anger or frustration.
Ask for More Information
Often people get upset based on what they think the other person is saying or how they perceived the information. A simple technique to cool off with the big picture is to ask for more information. Rather than responding in anger or with a challenging tone, ask a question like:
- Can you tell me more about that?
- What solutions have you considered?
- How would you solve this?
- What else would you like me to know?
Asking the other person for more information gives you time to listen and calm yourself. It also provides them with the opportunity to explain further and perhaps clarify what was originally intended.