A Guide To Keeping Your Cool: How To Keep Calm In Any Situation
We all have triggers that ignite our tempers. Whether you have a short fuse in general, tend to get angry when you're stressed, or just snap when you reach a certain limit, you've probably spent at least some time wondering how you can keep calm in frustrating situations.
After all, staying calm isn't only important for practical reasons (such as getting along in the work environment). It's also extremely important for your overall health, as stress is liked to a heightened risk of a wide variety of health problems.
But how do you keep your cool when someone (or something) is pushing your buttons? We'll explore a wide range of tricks and techniques that you can use in a wide variety of contexts, both in your professional and personal life. And once you learn how to remain calm under pressure, almost all of life's challenges will be easier for you to overcome.
Why Do We Get Angry?
Firstly, it's important to give some thought to why and how you get angry. This is different for everyone. We all interpret anger differently, and what drives you to distraction may not bother someone else at all.
Generally speaking, however, the most common triggers for anger include the following:
- A lack of control/feelings of powerlessness
- Feeling threatened (physically or psychologically)
- Injustice or unfairness
- Feeling unheard
It may help you to make a shortlist of your own triggers before going forward, as this can help you apply the specific techniques we'll be explaining.
It's also worth noting that the things that make you angry are influenced by your past experiences, as are the behaviors your exhibit in response to anger. We over internalize unproductive messages when we're very young, and bringing them to conscious awareness is the first step towards overcoming them. Think about what your family, friends, and teachers taught you about anger when you were growing up, either explicitly or through their own behaviors.
For example, if you witnessed a lot of violence in your youth, you may be quick to start fights. Meanwhile, if you saw parents swallowing and denying their anger instead of acknowledging it, you may turn your rage inwards.
How To Keep Calm: Tips And Tricks
In the face of anger or hurt, our egos are often all too quick to react. But ask yourself: when has your own anger ever helped to resolve a situation, or to make you feel better? Didn’t it only make you feel worse?
When another person is angry with us or sets out to hurt us, the most important thing to remember is that every act is an act of love. When your partner uses impatient words with you, you’re belittled or jeered at by a relative or even when that person on the street shouts prejudiced abuse at you; every one of these seeming acts of hatred was in fact, an act of love.
That’s right, you read it here; it is an act of love.
You see, everything we do or say or think is in relation to something we love. So, when people do something hateful, this is, in fact, a result of their love for something, a love they are unable to communicate.
This leads us to how we can best respond to someone expressing anger. By far the best response is to ask a question, the question being:
‘What is hurting you?’
What is hurting that person so badly that they feel they must hurt you in order to heal? It is such a simple sentence but it is one that should change your entire way of thinking and your life, for the better.
Asking a person this question despite their anger is effective for a variety of reasons. First of all, by asking this question you lose your need to change the thoughts or words of the other person. This is what is at the heart of most conflicts: a need to reshape the opinions and thoughts of the other person. However, by having a genuine concern for what may be hurting this angry person, you’re affirming to them that you recognize and accept their thoughts and their views are true for them.
More often than not, being able to see through a person’s rage and show a genuine interest in what’s going on in their world, can be enough to help them let go of their anger and open up.
So, the first tip on how to keep calm is to remember, next time you’re confronted by anger, to ask that all-important question: how are you hurting? It really is as simple as that.
Keeping Calm With Your Colleagues
Let's start by looking at how to stay calm and control your temper in the workplace. There are three major strategies that will help you get along with colleagues, all of which allow you to assert yourself appropriately while not simply accepting disrespect or unfair treatment.
1. Don’t Take It Personally
In many cases, disagreements at work will have almost nothing to do with you or the worth of your ideas. Instead, your colleague's ways of behaving, speaking, and thinking is all about them, and their own insecurities.
If you have a short-tempered personality, try to hold onto this fact every time you begin to feel outraged or annoyed. When you start to feel angry at work, ask yourself what need your colleague is meeting by dealing with you in this way. You'll often quickly begin to see that their behavior all boils down to insecurity, a need to feel important, or even jealousy.
2. Be The Voice Of Reason
A big part of learning how to keep calm at work involves recasting yourself in a new role.
Instead of being the person who is always pissed off, deliberately calm yourself with deep breathing when someone else's temper starts to rise. Speak clearly and steadily, thinking about your words before using them.
This type of reasonableness will often help to de-escalate the other person, encouraging them to back down from their angry stance. As a bonus, if you do this often enough then you'll get a reputation for staying level-headed in a crisis, and that could certainly help your promotion prospects!
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3. Take A Step Back
Taking a step back can do a lot to control your temper. In other words, detach yourself from your own stance and try to adopt a neutral, third-party perspective instead. Look at the situation you're in, and ask what will happen if you lose your temper, start shouting or react emotionally.
Generally, the long-term results won't be good for you, and may even involve a need to apologize later (regardless of whether you were justified in getting at least somewhat angry). Consider this: will the thing that's making you angry still make you angry this time next year? If not, grit your teeth and let it go this time.
How To Keep Calm With Your Friends
Trying to control anger in your personal life can be harder than it is at work, as there’s a greater emotional investment and more freedom to speak your mind. However, there’s also a greater cost if you can’t keep calm, so try these three techniques to keep your social life on an even keel.
1. Keep Perspective
Firstly, reflect on whether it is worth making a big deal out of the issue that's causing a conflict with your friend. Sometimes, it will be and will relate to the core of your relationship or to a profound clash of values. More often than not, however, the disagreement may feel important in the moment but likely lacks longer-term significance.
In addition, a lot of disputes with friends are based on misunderstandings and can be resolved by asking for clarity. So, when you feel irritation rising, taking just a few seconds to ask yourself “Does this really matter to our friendship?” can stop you from creating a rift.
2. Make A Joke
Humor is a well-known defense mechanism, but when deployed in the right way it can be a very healthy one. Specifically, it can calm a person with a short temper and can shift your friend's focus back to your common ground.
Of course, you need to be careful about what kind of remark you make and how you make it, but a light reference to an in-joke or a relevant, funny memory can do a lot to defuse tension. And once you've laughed together, you may find that whatever was previously causing the discord just doesn't seem so weighty anymore.
3. Think About What You Will Say
Choose your words carefully when you're annoyed at a friend. While you have every right to express discontent, an outburst of anger could do irreparable damage. Try to focus on uncontentious statements that communicate clear, specific points about how you feel.
In particular, use “I” statements and avoid “always” and “never”.
For example, “I feel disrespected by the fact you were an hour late” is a lot more likely to lead to a productive resolution than “You're always so late, it's obvious you don't care about me at all!”. Both statements allow you to get your feelings out, but the former is reasonable while the latter is inflammatory.
How To Keep Calm With Your Family
Sometimes, family members can be the most different to manage, and learning how to keep calm in stressful situations revolves around acknowledging that these people have a unique ability to rile you up!
Try a combination of the following three techniques.
1. Shift Your Mindset
Your expectations have an enormous influence on how you feel and behave during family events.
For example, if you go in assuming that your uncle is going to drive you crazy, then you can bet he will! Instead, try to show up for these gatherings with a deliberate focus on the things you're looking forward to; the people you like most, and the qualities you genuinely enjoy. Psychological studies show that you really can train your brain to behave in this way and that the more you do it the better able you are to stay focused on the positives without getting angry.
2. Seek Common Ground
It's easy to obsess over all the niggling points of disagreement, but if you truly want to keep your cool when you're with family then it's far more useful to seek common ground. There are loads of things that you have in common, which is exactly why your brain is drawn to pick out the dissimilarities in the first place!
Before (or during) a family event, try to recall specific areas where you and your family members are in agreement. If things get stressful, shift the conversation towards one of these topics. Plus, even just keeping this common ground in mind can make you feel more affable and receptive.
If all else fails and you're starting to feel really agitated, take a few minutes away from the group and calm yourself down before saying something you might regret.
Once you're alone, try breathing in for a count of ten, and then out for a count of ten.
Each of these slow, deep breaths will slow your heart rate and tell your body that there's nothing to be stressed about. If you can't find a convenient excuse to slip into another room, even a brief bathroom break will give you a chance to get your temper back under control.
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Keeping Calm With Your Partner
Finally, it’s important to acknowledge the unique stressors that come as part of any long-term romantic relationship. When things get tricky with your partner, turn to one of these strategies to find a resolution.
1. Acknowledge Your Limits
Everyone has limits to their tolerance, and it's vital to learn how to recognize you're not in the right headspace to resolve a disagreement. When you sense that you're too angry or upset to give ground, you naturally become less reasonable and more defensive.
At this point, it's helpful to say something like “I do want to work this out with you, but I need some time to myself to calm down before I can talk to you properly”. This is better than simply walking away, which can leave your partner distressed and may accidentally signal that you have to interest in making up.
2. Take Charge
If at least one of you knows how to get their temper under control, arguments between you are much less likely to escalate to the level of fury. If you want your partner to calm down, you need to demonstrate a degree of calmness yourself.
So, keep your voice level, take ownership of your own feelings, choose your words carefully, and don't deploy insults that are merely designed to hurt your partner. However, as you do this, be careful not to dip into passive aggression rather than calmness. In other words, don't try to convey a sense of superiority or imply that your partner's emotional upset indicates childishness.
3. Be Prepared To Compromise
Ultimately, the ability to compromise is one of the main things that helps to sustain a happy relationship. When you are at odds with your partner, try to remind yourself that you should be working together to find a solution that meets at least some of both of your needs. This is a much more productive mindset than the competitive approach that focuses on “winning”.
In many cases, even saying this aloud can help you both stay calm. While honestly expressing your feelings, you can also note that you are ready and willing to compromise and that your partner's happiness matters a great deal.
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