Have you ever had someone suggest you calm down or take it easy? Nearly everyone has at some point. When it happens, I’d bet the person saying it was annoying.
First let’s look at it from an awareness perspective, then what to do about it.
Consider the situation. If they were suggesting you should calm down, you probably weren’t calm. Moreover you probably recently got un-calm. If they were talking to you, there’s a good chance they contributed to you losing your cool.
And now what do they do? They command you to go in the opposite direction of your emotions. Of course you feel justified in having the emotions you do. Now they’re telling you to ignore that justification and adopt the emotions they want you to have. Talk about insensitivity at a counterproductive time.
On top of that, if you are annoyed at them, from your perspective your calming down with help them. Maybe you prefer not to be in an altercation and maybe you would prefer to calm down, but in the moment that’s not where you are. It puts you in a position where calming down, even if you want to, appears to be following them, which you may not want to do.
In short, someone contributing to your being annoyed followed by their commanding you to ignore your feelings in favor of ones they want you to have is likely to inflame the situation more, not resolve it. It’s selfish and insensitive.
Okay, now we’re aware. What do we do about it?
Effective responses will depend on the situation, but will always best be grounded in self-awareness. Recognizing the counterproductivity of their behavior may help keep you from reactive or counterproductive responses, like saying “No, you calm down” or “I am calm.” Some effective responses include walking away, taking a few deep breaths, finding out if the other person is aware of the consequences of their actions, feeling compassion for them, going back to the previous topic of conversation, and changing to a new topic.
Another big challenge at the time is to ask yourself how much you may have contributed to the situation. However insensitive and counterproductive the other person’s behavior, you probably had some role in things being the way they are. Recognizing that, at least to yourself, may help.
The most fundamental advice I give myself in such situations is not to look for blame but to take responsibility for making things better to the extent you can. However you got there is in the past and can’t be changed. You can change the present and taking responsibility is the best way I know to improve it for yourself.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
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