How to Calm Someone Down
In my last blog, I shared a few tips on my routine to stay calm and keep cool. Then, I thought – what about how to calm someone down?
How many times have you experienced a situation where the other person is seemingly out of control in their anger or anxiety? It could be your partner who came back from a rough day and venting out over something really trivial at home? Or, your child having a meltdown. It could even be your manager or co-worker.
“Don’t Tell Me to Calm Down!”
How many times have you tried telling the other person to “calm down”, or “just relax”, or “don’t get so upset” only to make the other person more angry or anxious? Or, have you also responded back in a somewhat similar manner “stop your nonsense” or “can’t you be more rationale?” which leads to a heated argument?
Well, why does this happen?
Remember how our brain processes emotions?
First, if you recall, I shared in my earlier blog on how our brains process emotions. When we are experiencing a high energy feeling such as anger or anxiety, our sympathetic nervous system is triggered and we are just not thinking straight! So, there is really no point in trying to talk sense to the other person at this point, is there?
Emotion dismissing, disapproving or coaching?
Second, we all want to be seen, heard and felt. Yes, including times when we express our feelings in a negative or out of proportion manner. So, when someone tells you to “calm down”, or “stop your nonsense”, we feel being ignored. In emotion coaching, this is what we called being “emotion dismissing” or “emotion disapproving”.
So, how can we calm someone down than?
Feel it like how you would feel it if you were the other person. Recognizing and accepting the person’s feelings does not mean that we agree with their behaviors. It simply means we are with them listening to them. By being empathic and understanding before we decide to give our advice is sometimes just what the person needs.
Now, it is time to express your empathy, advice / problem solve, and set limits on the behaviors (especially with kids). Remember, the other person is at the peak of their anger or anxiety, and we want to avoid emotion dismissing or emotion disapproving statements or questions. Instead, use more empathic statements.
Often, we may think that the best way is to respond in the most soothing and calm voice we can. Yet, we realize that our message does not seem to come across to the person!
Well, this is because it may seem to be belittling the person’s feelings. Remember the feeling of anger or anxiety is the same as the fight-flight-freeze response triggered by our amygdala. Can you imagine you see a snake and want to warn your friend of danger and your friend responded in a nonchalant way? This is exactly how someone feels when they are angry and the other person responded in a calm way!
Well, try this.
So, I learnt this trick from my coach and it seriously works especially with kids!!! In fact, I just applied this approach twice just this past week with two clients (kids) I was working with! I also recommend this approach for positive emotions. When we want to build rapport and influence the other person, we always want to match their energy level.
Start your response initially by matching their energy level – raise the volume of your voice or even use your gestures to meet their emotions. Say something like “Oh OK” or “I get it!” ***Note, this is not the same as yelling, conversely, you need to stay calm and simultaneously match their volume level to demonstrate that you are capable of feeling what they are feeling! ***
If possible, repeat back their words, to confirm that you’ve listened (and are hearing the words and the meaning behind them). ***I have notice that when the person hears their own words, they may sometimes realize they might have over-reacted! ***
And then tone down your intensity lower (to induce more calmness….), complete the rest of your response to help problem solve. Perhaps, say “Can I suggest….” or “Shall we discuss what can be done…”
At the end when it becomes a proper conversation, bring in your thoughts on the person’s behavior.
Prevent it if you can…
As we know, it will be great if we can help others remain calm before their steam goes off. While we may not always be able to control other people’s emotions, there are opportunities where we can be their emotion coach! Especially when it comes to our loved ones. For instance, try observing their facial expressions, gestures or tonality. Understanding the person’s usual expressions when they are in a calm state allows you to notice changes when there is a change in the person’s emotional state. And, this can be helpful for you to interject it before it becomes uncontrollable….
So, the next time you meet someone who is angry or anxious, you will be confident in responding back, will you not?
~ With love & empowerment, elynn