Keeping Your Emotional Cool
Ask yourself this question: "Am
I able to remain detached when somebody else is angry
or argues with me?"
If you're like most people, your
answer is probably not only no, but HECK no.
When you're emotional, what are you
listening to? Where is your attention? Is it on the other
person? Nope. You're listening to the beast-brain screaming
in your own head phrases like these: "How DARE they
say that to ME!" "They're calling me STUPID!"
"She's ATTACKING me!" "I've GOT to defend
When you're listening to the beast
brain babble, you cannot hope to stay neutral. You are literally
giving your body a command to flood with adrenaline
-- you're preparing your body to either rip their face off
or run away. You can't hope to think or speak your way out
of the situation because all of the neurons are firing off
in an ancient beast-like part of the brain -- and none of
the neurons in the rational, higher brain are able to work.
A frequent question I get is "How
do I get that little voice to shut up?" My answer,
marginally facetious is: "You don't." The best
you can hope for is to turn down the volume and just notice
that voice there in the background, and not let it determine
the outcome. So how do you do that?
Breathe. I mean it. From way down
deep in your belly, consciously breathe in and fill your
belly--then breathe out slowly through your mouth. A few
times. Why? Because the beast-brain adrenaline rush is causing
you to breathe rapidly, high up in the chest, and flood
your bigger muscles so you can fight or flee. It is depriving
your rational brain of oxygen.
You can't think and feel at the same
time! Instead, try this:
Shift your body into a neutral posture.
If you're sitting, uncross everything and put your feet
flat on the floor, your arms and hands open and flat on
your lap or on whatever is in front of you. If you're standing,
make sure you move yourself so your weight is balanced on
both heels. Imagine there are steel rods going from the
ground up through your heels, through your hipbones, and
straight up your back. Unclench your fists. Uncross your
arms. Unclench your jaw. They are all just hanging, relaxed,
off the steel of your legs and backbone. Relax your eyes
-- make them go soft and fuzzy. How? Breathe.
From that neutral place in your body,
make note, like a tape recorder would, of what your beast
brain is saying. Just notice it. Don't believe it, just
notice. "Oh. I'm telling myself he's attacking my credibility."
"Interesting. I think she just
called me a liar." Emulate Spock: "Curious…"
If you must say something, make it
a neutral report about your internal truth: For example
"I'm taken aback, and unable
to respond rationally right now. Let me get back to you
in five minutes." OR
"I have no idea how to respond
to that." OR
"I'm so shocked at what you
are saying, I have to think about how I want to respond."
"Rather than say something I'll
have to take back, I want some time to think about it."
Notice how neutral and "Spock-like"
these responses are. You are not adding anything to the
emotional intensity. You are giving both of you a
chance to work with a creative part of your brain, toward
a different outcome than you would get with the destructive
part of your brain.
IMPORTANT NOTE: You will still feel
like ripping their face off, or running away. DON'T DO IT.
Some of you might be afraid that I'm suggesting you surrendering
your right to righteous indignation. I'm not. But… if you
practice rigorously with this tool, you won't get your righteous
indignation in the way of communicating!