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Be in control of your emotions during a difficult conversation

How do you make sure your emotions don’t take over during a difficult conversation? The more space your tears, frustrations and anger get, the less rational you can think. There is a risk that the conversation will go completely differently than you want it to! Fortunately, there are several things you can do to stay calm. Take control of your emotions with our three tips.

#1 Focus on your breathing
If you feel yourself becoming tense, try to focus on your breathing. Mindfulness experts recommend counting your breaths. For example, you can take a deep breath in and then a breath out while counting to 6 both times. Or you can count each breath out until you reach 10 and start over. Shifting your focus to counting can have a calming effect.

#2 Move
Sitting quietly during a difficult conversation can cause your emotions to escalate. If the conversation is taking place at a table, you can simply be open about this: “I feel like moving around a bit. Do you mind if I walk around a bit?” If you prefer to stay seated, try to find some small physical distractions. Think about moving your fingers or hands. Or you can place your feet firmly on the floor and notice how the floor feels against your shoes.

#3 Take a break
Creating distance from the situation can also be a very effective approach. If you notice that your emotions are increasing and you are not able to control them at that time, you can suggest taking a break. Let the other person know that you want to resume the conversation at another time. Creating distance, according to the Influence Model®, consists of two important components:

  1. Let your interlocutor know that you are temporarily putting the conversation on hold.
  2. Inform when you will return to the topic.

The above ensures that you do not run away from the situation in the eyes of others, and that you act to steer the conversation in the right direction again. During the intervening time, you have space to let your emotions settle and reflect on what has been said. When you resume the meeting, you are more prepared and space has been created for the conversation to take a different turn.

Source: Harvard Business Review

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