How To Stay Calm Around Those Who Push Your Buttons
We all encounter people in life who push our buttons. Whether it’s a negative co-worker or an elitist colleague, sometimes there’s no avoiding difficult people. Thankfully, there are several creative strategies you can take to help you stay calm during these situations.
Before diving into these strategies, let’s take a step back. When we find ourselves in these frustrating conversations, our immediate reaction is to get angry. We may be tempted to lash back and tell them what they’re doing is wrong or to sit and ruminate about it. Instead of going this route, try to approach the situation with curiosity. What is going on with them? What is prompting them to act this way? This is when empathy comes into play. Try putting yourself in their shoes just for a moment. Although you may feel annoyed, practicing empathy will help you approach the situation in a more calm manner.
With that said, here are 9 ways to manage your emotions during a challenging conversation.
Speak calmly and clearly
It’s easy to get heated in the moment, but it’s important to remain poised when dealing with aggressive behavior. Otherwise, it will just turn into a yelling match that goes nowhere. So before you respond during this difficult conversation, take a deep breath. You may need to get some water, temporarily distract yourself, or self-soothe in order let the intensity of your emotion come down. Then speak clearly and ask questions that will prompt the other person to reflect on what they’re saying. If you don’t feel like the conversation is getting anywhere, feel free to take control. Saying something like “This conversation isn’t very constructive so maybe we can take some time to reflect and reconvene at another time” can be really helpful. This keeps it professional and shows that you’re solutions-oriented and collaborative.
Don’t make it personal
Often times when people lash out, it’s not personal. But of course when you’re the one being lashed at, it feels very personal. Their behavior is about them and what they’re going through. Unfortunately this is just how certain people handle life’s difficulties. This is a perfect opportunity to show some compassion and empathy. We realize that isn’t easy when someone is being rude to you, but in the end it makes you a stronger person and will help you to stay calm and collected.
Just like they say a smile is contagious, so is kindness. When you’re around negative people, it’s easy to jump on the negative train. Thankfully, quite the opposite is true so why not kill them with kindness? Negativity drains energy. Positivity sparks kindness. Going back to showing compassion – know that this person is acting this way because they need some love or perhaps they are having a tough day. So next time try going out of your way to establish a one-on-one connection, or do something nice for them.
Gently shine a light on their behavior
Because you don’t want to get sucked into the negativity, it’s important to distance yourself from the behavior. Although you want to show compassion, you don’t want to absorb the negative energy either. So think about removing yourself from the situation and watch this person as if you’re viewing them from the future or in a movie. You can even mention the challenging behavior to them in a calm and collected way. Sometimes that’s all they need is someone to call them out. If you do so in a way that comes from a gentle place (and not one where they’ll feel attacked), it might even shake them out of it.
You can only control your reaction
When we’re in difficult situations, we seem to do everything we can to change them…even if it’s out of our control. That resistance only leads to frustration and anger…and for what? Remember that all you can control is your own reaction. You cannot control someone else’s behaviors or feelings. So when you get worked up, the other person can easily escalate and you’ll both sink to an equally difficult level. Of course we wish we could steer the course in all situations and have it go our way. But we know that’s not the reality and some things are just out of our control.
Put negative vibes aside
Similarly to only being able to control your reaction, we often want to “fix” people and put them in a more positive mindset. But like we mentioned, that’s not something that’s in your control. Sure you can suggest it, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Trying to change what you cannot eats up a lot of energy. Once you realize you cannot “fix” others, what are you supposed to do about those negative vibes? Try using a visualization. Put those negative vibes / thoughts / conversations in an imaginary box. Close the box, put it away and go about your day.
Reframe their words
Sometimes all it takes is a little shift in perspective. You might hear a negative comment out of a co-worker, but can you spin that into something more positive and productive? For example, if they tell you that it will be your fault if all doesn’t go according to plan for this upcoming presentation. Now that doesn’t sound very nice but you can work with that. Telling yourself, if all does go according to plan it’s going to make me look good, is a way to reframe their words in a positive manner. It makes it a little easier to walk away from the conversation without making anyone mad and leaving you feeling more positive.
Lead with love, not fear
Many of our actions (or lack there of) are lead by fear. But what if you started leading with love instead? What would happen? Looking at someone and knowing their behavior is a call for love can help you respond in a more loving way. Rather than coming from a place of fear which will lead to more anger and frustration. Leading with love is a great action to incorporate into as much of your life as you can (during these challenging conversations, and beyond).
If you find it difficult to manage your emotions when feeling criticized or invalidated, try speaking with a professional. Schedule an appointment with one of our therapists today.
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