We’ve all been in situations in which we’ve been frustrated and our patience has been tested. We may have reacted in a way that aggravated the situation and caused us to regret our behaviour.
Can you think of such a situation?
If don’t handle ourselves well in difficult situations, it can:
- Fracture relationships that could take time to heal.
- Make the situation worse especially if those involved also react badly.
- Generate unnecessary stress.
- Take our focus away from what we’re trying to accomplish.
- Cause others to feel uncomfortable being around us.
I remember a situation which I did not handle very well. What had happened was a colleague had snapped at me for interrupting them with a question I needed answered. Rather than give the person some space to complete what they were doing, I said something to the effect of, “Gee, you’re not the only one who’s busy around here, you know.”
That resulted in a short but heated conversation where we were trying to get the better of each other. That caused unnecessary tension and also made others around us uncomfortable as well. We were able to sort out our differences later, however we both would have preferred for the situation not to have occurred. Reflecting back on that experience, I should have used the techniques mentioned below and resolved it in a more efficient manner.
Here are five ways we can remain calm during any tense or difficult situation so that we can resolve it in a way that will be acceptable to everyone involved. These ideas will require a certain level of self-discipline because it can be very tempting to do the opposite and react in a way that can only make the situation worse.
- Resist the temptation to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. The way to do this is to pause and take some long, deep breaths. Closing our eyes for a few moments can also help because we’re giving ourselves a few moments to think about how to respond. What often makes a situation worse is when those involved think they are not being heard so they raise their voice, use obscene language or display aggressive behaviour.
- Be willing to walk away from the situation temporarily. If a person is not in a good space and not willing to listen, the best way to diffuse the situation is to say, “I’m not willing to talk to you right now because you are clearly upset. I will talk to you when you’re in a better frame of mind.” If we don’t add fuel to the situation, it will be a lot easier to resolve it without causing any further angst.”
- Clarify your outcome. Not knowing what we’d like from the situation will make it harder to reach a solution faster. Being able to see the situation from everyone’s perspective is vital because that will provide insight into what they are looking for from the situation. A simple question to ask is, “What would you like from this situation that will be beneficial to you and everyone concerned?”
- Take responsibility for the situation. If we find ourselves in a difficult situation, we have contributed to it in some way. If we don’t take responsibility, then we’re admitting that we don’t have the power or ability to do anything about it. Taking responsibility for it is often the first step towards making the situation better.
- Choose to remain present throughout the situation. The best thing we can do is to be as present as we can throughout the situation. Acknowledging that everyone is doing the best they can with the awareness, knowledge, skills or resources they have available to them can often help us look at the situation differently. Sometimes it may help to ease the tension in a difficult situation by making a joke or even laughing at yourself for being in that situation.
An important thing to remember is that we’ll always face difficult situations so it is our responsibility to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again.
Practical Actions That Can Be Taken After a Difficult Situation
- Capture the lessons you learned in a journal or notebook.
- Meditate on the experience in order to get more clarity, insights or lessons.
- Replay the situation in your mind exactly the way you would have liked it to have gone so you can be better prepared next time.
- Speak to a mentor or coach about it so you can gain an unbiased perspective or additional insight.
Conflict or difficult situations are often an invitation for us to learn more about ourselves and to grow as a person. The key is to not let difficult situations derail us from what we’re trying to achieve but to extract the necessary lessons to move us closer to what we want.
Action Step: If you have recently experienced a difficult situation, apply the practical actions listed above so you can be better prepared next time you find yourself in such a situation.
Question: What is another technique that can be used to remain calm in a difficult situation?
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