Getting upset sometimes is part of being human. When we’re upset, we stop thinking clearly, and may say or do things we regret. De-escalation expert Stephanie Rumble shares five simple yet highly effective tips on calming down in a conflict situation.

Stephanie provides a highly regarded half day workshop on de-escalation. Get in touch to find out more.

We’ll all experience conflict at some point, whether it’s with clients, suppliers or others. In any conflict situation, it’s really important to understand how to de-escalate yourself.

Here are five proven strategies that will help you to stay calm in a heated situation:

1. Recognize your triggers

What triggers you in a stressful situation? Usually there will be physical and/or verbal things the other person does that triggers you. Recognising those triggers is super important. They could be physical or verbal – someone shouting, swearing, or pointing their finger at you, invading your personal space, making humiliating comments. Or maybe even someone shoving you. The first thing to do is identify your triggers.

2. Recognise your amygdala hijack – when you’re starting to feel stressed

When you feel highly stressed, the emotional part of your brain takes over and you stop thinking rationally. This is called an amygdala hijack – when the amygdala takes over the pre-frontal cortex and you stop being able to reason and make rational decisions. When this happens, we usually do one of three things: fight, flight or freeze. A ‘fight’ response often means talking a lot. A ‘flight’ response means wanting to run away. A we ‘freeze’ response means we stop in our tracks and don’t have anything to say. Recognising which response you have is important so you can manage it.

These two things, responding to triggers and the amygdala hijack happen within 10 seconds, so you need to act quickly. This is where tip three comes in.

3. Take steps to calm down

There are three things you can do here to de-escalate yourself:
One is to breathe slowly. Breathe in slowly for three seconds, hold your breath for three, and exhale for three.
The second thing is to notice what’s around you. Feel your feet on the ground. Smell, listen, and see what’s around you.
The third thing you can do is to tell yourself you haven’t caused this, because everyone is in charge of their own emotions.

4. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

Empathise with the other person. Put yourself in their shoes, don’t judge them. Try to see the world from their perspective, recognise their emotion (ask them how they feel or what they are upset about), and have compassion. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, but trying to understand their perspective can help you feel calmer and communicate with them better.

5. Be the communication you want to receive.

Speak the way you want someone to speak to you. Stay calm. Speak slowly. Be mindful of your body language. Check your pitch is low, your tone and the volume of your voice are not high.

If you use these tips, not only in business, but also in life, you’ll enjoy all your interactions much more.