How to keep your emotions under control during a difficult conversation

How do you ensure that your emotions don’t take over during a difficult conversation? The more space your tears, frustrations, and anger are given, the less rational you can think. There’s a chance that the conversation may go completely differently than you want it to! Fortunately, there are several things you can do to stay calm. Master your emotions with our three tips.

#1 Focus on your breathing

If you notice that you’re becoming tense, try to focus on your breathing. Mindfulness experts recommend counting your breaths. For example, you can inhale and exhale for 6 seconds each, or simply count each exhale until you reach 10 and then start over. Shifting your focus to counting can be calming.

#2 Move

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

#3 Create distance

Creating distance from the situation can be a very effective approach. If you notice that your emotions are escalating and you’re unable to control them at that moment, 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 our Influence Model®, consists of two important components:

  1. Letting your conversation partner know that you’re temporarily pausing the conversation.
  2. Informing them when you’ll revisit the discussion.

So, you’re not walking away from the situation but taking action to steer the conversation in the right direction again. During the intervening time, you have space to let your emotions subside and reflect on what has been said. When you engage in conversation again, you approach it differently, and space has been created that wasn’t there before.

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