I just read a great article from Creating Passionate Users called The Worst Way to Calm Someone Down.
The three images that begin the article made me laugh because I see myself in them. When people around me are upset, it’s so hard for me to resist the temptation to say, “Relax! Calm yourself down.” But of course this often has the opposite effect, and the other person only gets more upset.
I’m familiar with the article’s suggested solution, which is a rapport-building strategy called matching and mirroring. The times I’ve used it consciously, it has worked wonderfully, but it takes a bit of patience to apply. The basic idea is that when someone around you is upset, you first adopt their physiology (so you become upset too), and then gradually lead them back down to a state of calmness.
What’s tough for me in applying this strategy is that it’s hard for me to relate to other people when they begin to lose it because I tend to be very emotionally resilient myself. If I start to feel like I’m losing “emotional containment,” I take steps to restore myself to a positive state: journaling (to see if there’s a message in the negative emotions), going for a long walk, running, listening to uplifting music, meditating, visualization, NLP, eating extra healthy meals, etc.
So my personal block is actually wanting to calm someone down instead of just rolling my eyes at them for losing it. I think I’ll need to work on this more.