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15 Steps To Take To Stay Cool When You’re Upset At Work

By News Creatives Authors , in Leadership , at August 30, 2021

When negative interactions occur or unexpected obstacles arise in the workplace, it’s natural to feel upset. However, reacting immediately when you’re in a state of heightened emotion could have less-than-optimal consequences.

Taking a moment to cool down will allow you to calmly consider a rational, effective response to deal with the issue at hand. To help you learn this valuable skill, the members of Forbes Coaches Council shared their top strategies for turning your internal temperature down in the heat of the moment. Follow their advice to cool off before you react.

1. Plan Ahead For Workplace Triggers

Reining in your impulses is much harder to do during the triggering event, so plan ahead. Make a short list of your top workplace triggers, then write down the thoughts that create these emotions and what behaviors come as a result. Next, challenge each thought with neutral ones. Finally, replace each behavior with more productive ones by asking yourself, “What do I want to be known for at work?” – Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC

2. Change The Scenery

Take a break from what you are doing to defuse the tension. Give it time. The best time to have a stressful conversation is on a Friday so that you can give the individual two nights to sleep on it before resuming the discussion. Then, you can bring it up again on Monday and have a more rational and effective conversation. – Devika Das, CORE Executive Presence

3. Pause And Filter Your Thoughts

It is important to discipline yourself to respond thoughtfully rather than react emotionally. Not every thought that comes into your mind has to come out of your mouth verbatim. Pause and use a filter: “Does this need to be said? By me? Now? To this audience?” This filter helps us answer the question, “Who do I want to be in this moment?” Once you know that, you can act accordingly. – Kathy Bernhard, KFB Leadership Solutions

4. Use The Rewind Tactic

When things get heated too quickly, we have an excellent opportunity not only to pause but also to rewind. The rewind tactic is one of the best because it not only forces you to slow down, but also ensures that you can develop a shared understanding of what just happened by asking a question. This way, you can defuse the situation and get more information and time to cool off before you respond calmly. – Izabela Lundberg, Legacy Leaders Institute


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5. Visualize A Relaxing Setting

An immediate response should be to get up and remove yourself from the situation. Then, close your eyes, visualize a relaxing setting and focus on the details of that setting. What makes that particular setting relaxing? Are you at the ocean? Hiking through the mountains? This exercise is sure to help you craft a more rational and effective response in your reply. – Caroline Vernon, Intoo, USA

6. Move From The Subconscious To The Conscious

When you find yourself emotionally amped, realize that something triggered you. The first step is to break the stress response by utilizing techniques to move your brain from the subconscious to the conscious. From there, have a mental checklist in place: “Is this a cognitive distortion? What can or can’t I control?” Finally, ask yourself how you need to react to be in alignment with your values. – Erin Miller, Erin Miller Inc

7. Learn How To Hold Two Emotional Spaces

The holy grail of emotional power holding two emotional spaces—one for “raw” you and one for “leader” you. In the meeting, hold out two hands, palms up, take a deep breath and exhale. In one space, you hold the authentic, human you, where your immediate reaction (anger, frustration, surprise and so on) dwells. In the other space, you hold “leader” you, who seeks to understand so that you can find a productive way forward together. – Jodie Charlop, Exceleration Partners

8. Breathe And Stay In The Present

One quick step a professional can take is to breathe and become aware of your body in real time. After you have done this, you can become aware of the narrative and meaning that is upsetting you. Ask yourself, “What exactly are the facts here?” You can even take a moment and write them down if you breathe, staying present in the moment and low on the ladder of inference. – Clara Angelina Diaz-Anderson , ClaraFying Coaching and Consulting

9. Reappraise Your Thought Process

One immediate step could be to question how you are interpreting the situation. It will be helpful to consider whether the initial thoughts were irrational and think about what could be a healthier, more realistic way of seeing the situation. Reappraising the thoughts that led to you being upset can help you calm down and develop a more effective response. – Jacqueline Ashley, DSW, WorkLifeHealth.design

10. Practice Empathy For The Other Party

When people are upset, the most effective resolution tool is empathy. Often what triggers a person to overreact is not the source of the problem. Taking a moment to look beyond the surface of the circumstances while exploring the context of the individual’s problem can significantly position both parties to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome. When people feel supported and valued, all parties win. – D Ivan Young, Dr. D Ivan Young

11. Ask ‘What’ Instead Of ‘Why’

There is a simple coaching skill that moves people from an emotional state to a more rational one: Ask questions that begin with “what” rather than “why.” Asking, “What has you distressed?” generally leads to discernment and explanation, whereas asking, “Why are you so upset?” tends to make people access their emotions and want to vent. – Philip Liebman, ALPS Leadership

12. Think It Through Before Responding

Go for a walk and cool down. Call a friend or your partner and have a vent session, then return to the office to respond. But never respond without thinking it through properly and thoroughly first. – Victoria Canham, Ahead Together Ltd

13. Consider Whether The Trigger Is Situation-Specific

Consider whether your “trigger” might actually exist beyond the scope of the moment in which you experienced an emotional reaction. Well-researched scientific studies have established that being triggered in one situation or scenario may reflect your brain or your psychology “reliving” a past trauma or hurtful experience. Of course, don’t doubt yourself either; if a situation is toxic, leave. – Dave Ursillo, Lead Without Followers, LLC.

14. Leave The Upsetting Person Or Situation

If you feel that something or someone is upsetting you, leave the situation and the person who is making you feel upset. Do not act out of spontaneous emotion. It is best to change the room and the people around you, take the time to think over the situation, calm down and only then react. This applies to both positive and negative feelings. – Michael Thiemann, Strategy-Lab™

15. Find A Safe Space To Cool Down

When a professional experiences a moment of fear or overwhelm, the next steps are to respectfully excuse oneself from the conversation or environment, then find a safe space to breathe and drink a cooling beverage until you’ve regained well-being. When exiting is not possible, the same practices need to be abbreviated while staying present with others. – Ruth Simone, Luminare Coaching & Consulting

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