How to Calm Down in 2 Minutes…


You probably already know how to handle a tense situation intelligently. You wouldn’t be in your position today if you didn’t. At least subconsciously, inside your brain, you’re already experienced in going from attack mode to emotional mode to smart mode.

Every difficult conversation involves all three of these parts: your snake brain, your rabbit brain, and your human brain. Unfortunately, much of your human wisdom is there but lies buried in your instincts.

You may not have access to what it is exactly that helps you manage tense emotions when you need to.

When anger strikes, you react. It’s hard to switch to calm as fast as you need to.

Typically this happens: A few minutes after a stressful encounter, your pulse starts to slow down, you start breathing more slowly and you calm down a little. A good bit of time after that, you gain enough self-control to start thinking your options through. And later that day, you start thinking, “I’ll bet there’s a smart way to resolve this so that everybody wins.”

Often, however, it’s too late. And if you’ve reacted in the heat of the moment with harsh words, you may have already lost a sale, alienated a coworker, or lost esteem in someone’s eyes.

What’s the solution? In a stressful encounter, you may have about two minutes to get control and salvage the situation. Those two minutes can mean you’ll have the advantage over everyone else in the room. You’ll be the only person thinking straight.

I’m reading a good book on how to get through to people in a crisis.

Mark Goulston, author of Just Listen, (Amacom, 2010) recommends a five step mental process in times of stress or crisis. It doesn’t matter if the situation is a fender-bender, a teenager at home, an argument with a lover, or a work situation, these steps in this order will get you back on track when you’re upset.

  1. “Oh F#@&” – The Reaction Phase: This is a disaster, I’m screwed, what just happened, it’s all over. Oh fooey…
  2. “Oh God” – The Release Phase: This is a huge mess, I’m stuck with it, why does this always happen to me…
  3. “Oh Jeez” – The Recenter Phase: Alright, I can fix this, but it’s not going to be fun.
  4. “Oh Well” – The Refocus Stage: I’m not going to let this ruin my life/ my career/ my day/this relationship, and here’s what I need to do right now to make it better…
  5. “OK” – The Reengage Phase: Okay, I’m ready to fix this, let’s go.

Goulston’s not saying you can solve a crisis in two minutes. You can’t. But you can think your way through to possible solutions quickly. These five mental steps give you a way to create a path out of panic mode into solution mode.

As a result, you’ll be able to say the right things instead of making things worse by saying the wrong ones. What do you think? Next time you’re in a crisis, try saying to yourself:

  1. “Oh F#@%”
  2. “Oh God”
  3. “Oh Jeez”
  4. “Oh well”
  5. “OK”
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