Emotions are contagious.
When you’re with someone who is in a good mood, it makes you feel good. And when you’re with someone who’s down, it’s hard to stay perky.
This is especially true with anger. I remember the words of a client who said to me after a two-hour irate discussion with a colleague, “I matched his anger and frustration.”
We’ve all been there. It’s a natural self-defense mechanism to get angry when someone is targeting their fury at you.
But typically, we can see afterward that no one won the rage battle. The relationship is worse, not better and your next encounter with this person will be extremely awkward.
To be a person who is known as unflappable helps you excel at work.
When people feel they can speak their minds without you blowing up at them in return, it gives them comfort and security, both of which can be hard to come by in the workplace.
Being the person who preserves and protects relationships rather than participates in destroying them makes you indispensable.
Since you can’t change the other person, the only choice is to turn inward. There are things you can do to manage yourself that can have a calming impact on the other person.
Here are five techniques that I’ve used, have coached my clients to use, and have produced great results.
1. Stay put
Some of us are more prone to fight, others to flight. To have a chance at becoming known as a person capable of working through conflict, you must hang in there rather than walk away.
But if you stay and don’t engage with the person, your chances of moving toward a meaningful conversation are slim. The next four techniques will give you some things to focus on while you stay and the confidence that hanging in there will be worth your while.
2. Slow your breathing
When under attack, the body gets ready for fight or flight. The heart begins working overtime to pump blood to your arms and legs to get ready to battle or run.
It is possible, and necessary, to override this conditioned response.
By slowing your breath, you will slow your heart rate. By doing that, you can keep more blood in the organ you need it in. And at a time like this, when no physical danger is imminent…that’s your brain!
You’ll think more clearly which means logic will prevail over emotion. That will enable you to take the next step: listen.
3. Listen like they are about to say something that will change your life
When someone is angry, they’re ready to fight and they expect you to fight back. What they don’t expect is you to listen to them!
We’ve all experienced the different types of “listening”.
Sometimes you can tell the person you’re talking with is just waiting for you to take a breath so they can jump in with their nugget of wisdom. While other times, you get a “um-hum” while the person is glancing at their watch or their phone, waiting for time to be up so they can remove themselves from the situation.
And if you’ve ever had the pleasure of someone listening to you deeply, you understand why doing this when the other person is emotional will get their attention.
It’s simply hard to stay mad at someone who is genuinely trying to understand your point of view.
4. Reflect so they know they are understood
While listening, hear not only what they’re saying, but what they’re not saying. Remember who they are and where they come from. Those things will give you insight into what they are saying and feeling. Watch their body language. Take in all the information you have available to interpret what’s really being communicated.
When people are emotional, sometimes they can’t clearly articulate what they mean and how it makes them feel.
If you can read between the lines, make those connections, and articulate it, the other person will know that they are truly being heard.
5. Find a common purpose
When you get to the point where the person has gotten everything off their chest and you understand where they are coming from, it’s your turn.
Rather than focusing on what you want, focus on the common threads between what you want and what the other person has just expressed that they want and need.
It’s human nature to focus on the small parts between us that are different rather than all the things we have in common. Practice finding the common ground and you’ll find the differences either fall away or together you can build bridges across those gaps.
Conflict Done Well Strengthens Relationships
Practice these skills the next time you feel yourself reacting in kind to someone who is mad. Each one deflates anger, which enables a productive conversation.
Used in combination, these tools will ensure the relationship is stronger after the encounter than when it began.
What’s Worked for You?
Please share in the comment section below your thoughts on these techniques and others. What’s worked? What hasn’t? I can’t wait to hear your stories.
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