The MLRA Therapy Blog

Insights and ideas from the therapist team at Meghan L. Reitz and Associates.

How to Slow Down a Heated Situation

Ever felt a little out of control or that you were having an out of body experience when angry or really upset? This is actually somewhat of a common feeling that all of us have at one time or another when we are feeling extreme stress, pressure, or anger. Our emotional mind takes over and the logical takes a vacation. When we become extremely upset, we tend to not think clearly, say things we don't mean, and maybe even behave out of character in a negative way.

The first thing to remind yourself is that everyone gets angry. It's a very normal and acceptable emotion to have. We are taught that anger is "bad" or should somehow get stuffed inside. The real issue is how we deal with this very real and human feeling.

Second, ask yourself if you fit into one of these categories?

  1. Confrontational- You like to resolve things right at the moment; it's difficult for you to leave your partner, friend, family member, etc. time to think about how he/she wants to deal with something; you want a quick fix; you're impatient.
  2. Avoidant- You would rather avoid the problem; you tend to shut down in arguments or confrontations; you have difficulty coming up with solutions and hope the issue will "just go away;" you feel attacked when someone is angry or upset.

If you tend to fit into one of these categories, most likely you have a partner or SOMEONE in your life that is exactly the opposite. When these two types of individuals are trying to hash out an issue, you can see how this can get "heated" very quickly. In fact, it's quite common that we usually have a romantic relationship with someone who is the opposite of the category that we fit into.

Here are some "Rules of Thumb" to keep in mind and utilize to slow it down a notch:

  • Identify and recognize if you tend to be avoidant or confrontational.
  • Identify and recognize if the other person tends to be avoidant or confrontational.
  • Work on equilibrium- if you tend to be confrontational, work on managing your anxiety and allowing the other person time to come back to you; if you tend to be avoidant, work on giving yourself an expectation to come back to the other person in a reasonable time frame to cope with the issue (use this time to make notes or collect your thoughts)
  • Take a TIME OUT- when we are emotionally charged we will not resolve much. Calling a time out and a time in can be very important to give each person time to calm down and come back to a more logical state of mind.
  • Call a TIME IN- don't forget to come back together. Hoping the problem will just go away will help ensure the problem will keep coming back again and again- and probably be worse than before.
  • BREATHE- we forget to breathe when we are angry and frustrated. Take some deep breaths.
  • Writing down what's troubling you can help you collect and organize your thoughts.
  • Slow the conversation down by stopping thinking about what YOU'RE GOING TO SAY NEXT and instead FOCUS ON WHAT THE OTHER PERSON IS SAYING and then respond.
  • Remind yourself that most people have good intentions and speak out of hurt and don't tend to be malicious. Do you love this person? Do you care for this person? Remind yourself that we often speak out of anger because the underlying emotion is hurt, sadness, or disappointment.

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