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!