Keep Your Cool—How to Manage Troublesome Topics

by on October 24th, 2010
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Have you ever known someone who had the ability to push your buttons and engage you in an argument where nobody ever wins? Maybe you’ve got a third cousin that gets under your skin or a brother-in-law that is constantly saying something stupid (at least, you think so) that’s triggering your frustration. Perhaps it’s time to learn to side-step the seductive efforts of others to pull you in to a no-win discussion. Here’s how:

—Be proactive. When you know you’re going to be spending time with a person who consistently pushes your buttons, prepare yourself in advance by telling yourself you’ll refuse to get pulled into any emotional discussions.

—Avoid the source of your irritation. If possible, avoid sitting in close proximity to the person who brings up topics that trigger your disdain or frustration. The further away he/she is, the less likely you’ll engage in those challenging discussions.

—Try a new tact. Surprise the other person by not getting involved in an annoying conversation. Make noises like, “Oh,” “I see,” or “That’s interesting” without making further comment. When the other person senses you’re not going to get into the fray, it will probably dampen his efforts to irritate you.

—Be watchful. Monitor your voice tone and volume. Most people can deduce when you’re upset by your tone of voice or how loud you’re speaking, so it’s wise to keep on top of the intensity level of your verbal communication.

—Remain neutral. It’s best to stay neutral during discussions that have historically irritated you. Let’s face it, when you get all red-faced, loud, and a bit flipped out over a discussion of the best vacuum sweeper or the smartest political candidate, it’s not a good look (Help Guide website). Opt for remaining neutral while the topic is being explored by others.

—Listen rather than speak. Okay, this one is the toughest of all, particularly if you have a strong opinion about the subject being discussed. However, it is entirely possible that you’ll learn something, should you simply listen. At the very least, you might hear something that you want to check in to later to gather some facts.

—Arm yourself with facts before you go out. Sometimes, it feels pretty good to offer real knowledge to others. If you figure a discussion of the presidential candidates are going to come up, check your favorite news junkie website for cold, hard facts about what’s going on. Save the website on your smartphone and then refer to it later on if you wish to share some real facts during the discussion.

—Agree to disagree. It shows you have respect for yourself and others when you acknowledge that it’s perfectly acceptable for the two of you to think and feel differently.

Keeping your cool is not as difficult as you think. Prepare yourself in advance and stay as far away from the offending person as possible. Refuse to get involved but if you do, monitor your voice tone and volume. Vow to stay neutral and listen rather than talk. Gather facts in advance so that if you do decide to join the discussion, you can stick with the facts. Be open to agreeing to disagree. If you practice these suggestions, you’ll be quite successful at managing your discussions of troublesome topics.


Help Guide website

Professional experience

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