Cool it Down

The mindfulness strategy that will help diffuse even the most difficult conversations

It happens to all of us.

Like it or not, no matter how reasonable, kind, or considerate you may be, sometimes conversations get heated. And when they do, our default reactions tend to make things worse rather than better.

Difficult conversations bring up emotion.

And when you’re emotional, you’re using a part of the brain that’s reactive – that's wired for fight or flight. This part of your brain is fine if you are in a survival situation, such as running from a hungry bear. But in a conversation with friends or family, not so much.

In order to cool the situation down and move the conversation forward, you need to activate a different part of your brain, the more rational prefrontal cortex.

In fact, it’s possible to get all of the brains in the conversation out of that emotional reactive state.

As always, you have to start with you.

This Week:
Cool Difficult Conversations With These 3 Steps

The next time you’re confronted with a difficult conversation, try this:

When you pause to breathe, you’re changing your body’s physiological state.

  • Your body stops pumping cortisol and adrenaline throughout your body and these are the hormones that keep you in a state of high alert.

  • Your heart-rate slows.

  • You blood pressure decreases.

  • You regain access to that rational, responsive (rather than reactive) part of the brain.

Use your breath to focus on the moment you’re in. When you’re hot under the collar, your mind is jumping between the past (why you should be upset) and the future (what may happen that you need to protect yourself from).

Just a few silent, mental repetitions of “in” and “out” along with your breathing will do the trick.

Now that you’re out of a reactive state and in the present moment. Get present with the person you’re speaking with and give them your full attention

  • Assume positive intent.

  • Be curious about their perspective.

  • Acknowledge and validate that you hear them.

    Even if you don’t agree with them, statements like “I can hear how important this is to you,” or “It sounds like you’ve given this a lot of thought,” can help move them out of that emotional brain.

These steps can be especially helpful during heated conversations with friends and family during get-togethers for the 4th this week! Give it a try and keep it cool.