chill out!

I find that tempers tend to flare onsite much easier than they do at the office.  Some folks don’t handle “onsite” as well as others.  I don’t typically lose my cool, but I have help.  I’ve done research on ways to manage anger, and how to diffuse tense situations (in some cases, taking tips from hostage negotiators!).

One of the most concise sources of advice on the topic has to be Sharon Melnick.  She has a 3-step process for managing anger (in any situation).  Her blog post effectively captures a lot of what I’ve learned over the years.

The three steps she recommends are:

1.  Change the commentary – If your brain has a negative running commentary about someone or something, you are in a mindset of having no control over your situation.  Shift the commentary slightly, and use “I” statements to reflect how you feel and what you think about the situation.  The important thing is to focus on what you can do about the situation you’re in.  Empowerment has a way of making anyone happy.

2.  Cool down – Take just a moment to combat the heat you may not realize is building up in you (whether literally or figuratively).  You can do this with breathing exercises or mental imaging.  Most sources recommend taking a deep breath or going to your “happy place” in your mind.

3.  Find the good – Adjust your point of view.  If it’s a person that’s made you mad, try to figure out what good reason they have for acting in the way that’s disturbed you.  We’ve all done things that have made someone else angry, and usually we haven’t acted with the intention of making them angry.  This step has the effect of helping us practice empathy.

The step that I find most helpful onsite is Step 2.  Whenever a disgruntled person approaches me redfaced and using their outdoor voice, I always take a deep breath, smile, and imagine them in a clown suit.  Works like a charm!


5 thoughts on “chill out!

  1. lpotts says:

    Hi Krys,

    You’re absolutely right, people are more likely to lose their cool away from the office. I often wondered why. Sometimes it seems to have more to do with the situation than the location. When you’re onsite everything is coming to a head and stress is at it’s maximum. On the other hand, you’re also away from the comforts of home, habit and most of your support system.

    Strangely enough, I posted about a related subject today. It’s called “The Valium Bubble” (

  2. mike mcallen says:

    What a great post Krys-

    What I try to do when things are getting hot is breathe!
    Then I usually find a spot and talk out situations on my voice mail and then listen to them and get a perspective of it from all points. I also have used a neat FREE service called to call up situations that arise and the service transcribes my voicemail and shoots me an email. Then later after the conference productions I can go back and have a good transcript and log of what happened, keep track of client additions, things that worked creatively for the audience and anything else I want to remember later to improve the next production. It really clears my head and makes me more calm and present for our clients.

    Again great post Krys.


    Mike McAllen
    Grass Shack Events & Media

  3. Rick says:

    Hi Krys,

    Thanks for some great insight. I sometimes do some freelance work on the road for one particular individual. Whenever this guy gets upset or mad he has a tendency to pick stuff up and throw it across the room and cuss and complain. I guess it’s his way of coping. Another thing he does is when the client calls him on radio, he always says something like, “I wonder what that (*^R^&FYVY wants now.” And then he “sometimes” gets on the radio all sweet and nice. I say sometimes because sometimes he is pretty condescending to them and it’s obvious.

    Personally, I think this method only teaches whatever crew members happen to be present that it’s ok to act like this and evidently this client isn’t all that important to the AV company.

    Just working around this boss has taught me quite a bit of about reacting to the stress moments that happen to occur on almost every showsite (ie, Murphy’s Law).

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