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9 Simple Ways To Stay Calm In Highly Charged Situations

9 Simple Ways To Stay Calm In Highly Charged Situations

Let’s face it: we all sometimes find ourselves in situations where we feel like our patience is on its last thread. We blow a fuse and our anger boils over, making us want to damn-anything-to-hell that gets in our way. But losing it can really bring all sorts of problems for you, including ruining your career and damaging your relationships.

So, it’s vitally important that you learn to calm yourself down in highly charged situation before you lose it and aggravate the situation. Say, for example, someone dangerously cuts you off on the freeway. You don’t have to let sudden bursts of anger control you. There are ways to calm down and get through it with your sanity intact. Contrary to what you might think, anger is not an uncontrollable force that takes over us. It is a manageable emotion.

Here are some ways that can help you stay calm in highly charged situations, and avoid overreaction.

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1. Pause and take deep breaths.

The first thing you need to do when you find yourself in a situation that ruffles your feathers is to take a deep breath. Don’t act in a rush, as you will almost certainly regret it. Just close your eyes and count to 10 to get a grip on your adrenaline rush, and then take deep breaths to calm down.

Carlos Coto, a psychologist at Pick the Brain suggests you try the 4×4 breathing technique where you breathe in for four seconds, hold the breath for four seconds and exhale the breath slowly for four seconds. Repeat this breathing technique until you feel calm enough to react.

2. Step back and ask yourself some simple questions.

Never react when you are really agitated. You are a pot of boiling water, and need to step back and ask yourself some question to assess the situation. Is the upsetting situation something you can control? Did you misunderstand the thing that’s setting you off? Does the issue really matter that much? How do I look and behave while I’m angry? Is my face red? Am I waving my hands around wildly? Would I want to work with someone like that? Probably not. Thoughtful questions help you go to the intellectual part of your brain that protects you from overreaction. Questions work wonders for most people.

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3. Declare that you want to be productive and calm, and focus on that.

You cannot fully control other people’s behavior, but you can only control your own reactions. The sooner you realize that, the faster you can handle emotionally charged situations. The realization (and acceptance) that you can only truly control your own behavior and not other people’s actions can take the emotion out of the situation and allow you to proceed with a greater degree of control. Think about the things you want to do in the next hour or next few days, and declare you want to focus on those things instead of the situation that’s fueling your fire. Your thoughts will drift from anger to those things that make you more productive and joyful.

4. Label your emotional state in just a word or two.

Another trick to stay calm and overcome a rush of negative emotion is to get in touch with the emotion and label it in one word or two. Different brain studies show that labeling negative emotions reduces their impact. Trying to suppress a negative emotional doesn’t work and can backfire on you, says Kevin Ochsner a professor of psychology at Columbia University. You might look fine outwardly, Ochsner says, but inwardly your limbic system is just as aroused as without suppression, and in some cases, even more aroused.

So, if you feel terrible, give that feeling a name. Describe that emotion. Pissed off? Frustrated? Sad? Label that negative emotion you’re feeling in just a word or two and see it diminish just like that.

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5. Let go of any unhelpful thoughts you may have.

This includes thoughts of revenge and thoughts such as “It’s not fair,” or “People like that should be locked up.” Such thoughts don’t help. They only make your anger worse. Let those thoughts go and you’ll find it easier to calm down and move on. Also, avoid using words like always (for example, “You always do that), never (for example, “You never listen to me.”), and should or shouldn’t (for example, you should know better than that.) Those words aggravate the situation. Instead, focus on thinking about positive things you could be doing that make you truly productive and joyful.

6. Write down the experience in a journal.

If you’re still upset about a situation even after you’ve tried letting it go, try writing it down in a journal. Nagging thoughts have a tendency to linger and flare up into fits of anger later at the slightest provocation. Writing down your emotions has a calming effect because it brings clarity and allows you to process complex issues and come up with solutions. It also tells your brain it can stop obsessing over the issue because the issue’s now recorded in a permanent place.

7. Tell someone about it.

One of the things that makes us lose our cool and burst into anger is that we get stuck inside our own heads with our own thoughts. If you have a friend with you in a highly charged situation, tell them what you’re feeling. If you don’t have someone with you, call a friend and tell them about it. Talking to someone and letting it all off your chest can leave you feeling calmer. If, however, you are constantly feeling frustrated and angry no matter what you try, and your temper causes you problems at work or in your relationship, consider talking to a professional. A psychotherapist, for example, can look at trends in your behavior and suggest solutions.

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8. Burn off some of that pent up rage with exercise.

No matter how well we try to keep a lid on it, anger bursts may still make occasional appearances. When they do, another great way to manage it and get back to being calm is to switch gears and exercise. Do pushups or situps, go for a run, or just hit the gym to blow off steam. Exercising burns off pent up rage, lifts your mood, and helps you feel healthier and happier. You can also try taking a nap if you’re terribly upset. Sleeping has a calming, rejuvenating effect on the entire body and mind.

9. Go outside and reconnect with nature.

A final trick to keep calm in highly charged situations is to just step outside and get some air and sun. Take a few minutes to walk in a natural setting with trees. Watch the birds fly in the blue sky and feel the wind blow against your hair. Reconnect with nature. Fresh air can help you calm down and remind you that we create most of the stress we feel in our minds. Studies actually show that spending time in green spaces with trees reduces stress, relieves mentally fatigue and alleviates feelings of depression. Even if you only go to a nearby park on your lunch break, do it to strengthen your bond with nature. Nature’s replenishing effect is fairly instantaneous.

More by this author

David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

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Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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