• User AvatarMiriam
  • 23 Apr, 2024
  • 4 Mins Read

What to do about Challenging People & Situations.

Challenging people and situations. We all have challenging aspects of our personalities and when we work closely with people, including customers and clients, what can be the most challenging is our reaction. How not to be ‘triggered’ by what someone has said, or done, or how they chew their food or breathe. 

These examples are on the spectrum of ‘triggering’ – from annoyance to being really confronted with criticism that seems unduly harsh (or has been delivered in a harsh tone), to the extreme of shouting or swearing. 

But if we are confronted with any sort of behaviour that makes our life difficult there are techniques you can learn to deal with it. It’s important to learn these techniques when you are relaxed so it’s easier to recall when you are stressed. 

If you have been on the receiving end of criticism or an angry outburst firstly, try to remember that’s more about them than you. I read a stat recently that said it’s 10% you and 90% them, and whoever made that one up isn’t that far from the reality. It’s a great place to start too, not to take it personally. 

If it’s you feeling the anger it’s a good idea to spend some time thinking about where this anger might be coming from. Anger is a secondary (some say primary but I think it’s secondary because it comes second) emotion so there is always some other emotion behind it, as the primary emotion.  

These emotions can be so fleeting we aren’t even aware of them and we just go straight to anger. Once again, breathing helps keep you calm under angry situations (and helps you to calm down if it’s you who’s angry). Learning about what is behind anger can be life-changing as you can then learn to deal with the primary emotion rather than let situations develop into the angry phase. Easier said than done? Absolutely. But it can be done with the right strategies and practising those strategies. 

It also can be challenging not to be drawn into someone else’s issues/conflict/drama that hasn’t anything to do with us. One way to stop this from happening is to respond in a non-committal way. Saying “Riiiiight” and really drawing out the iiii sound will give the person time to draw breath and carry on without you haven’t to say anything possibly incriminating.

When it comes to dealing with issues or coming up against challenging people, take a deep breath (it will only take 3 seconds) and let it out slowly. If you have been practising empathetic statements and facilitative questions use them. If you don’t know what I mean just ask me, and I can send some to you.

Calming the vagus nerve

Ongoing stress can affect our entire internal system, our parasympathetic nervous system (our relaxation response). The vagus nerve initiates in the core of the brain and travels to the depths of the gut. Along its travels, it affects eye movement, facial expressions, tone of voice, heart rate and heart rate variability, breathing, and the function of the spleen, liver, kidneys and intestines.

Stress can negatively affect the vagus nerve so learning how to calm it, which is calming you, is essential. Diaphragmatic breathing is one of the best ways to calm the vagus nerve. Try breathing out for longer than you breathe in as this helps to activate our parasympathetic nervous system to relax.

Breathing from your diaphragm takes about 3-5 seconds, here are some exercises to help you take that 3-5 second breath. Do one of these exercises every day, as many times as you like but definitely after any stressful situation.

  1. Pretend you are breathing in the scent of a flower. Hold onto the flower, bring the flower to your nose and (keeping your shoulders level) take a deep breath in through your nose, until your lungs are completely filled up. Hold your breath for the count of 1,2,3 and slowly let your breath out through your mouth. 
  2. Hold your hands in front of your body so your arms look like a circle. The top of one hand resting on the palm of the other, resting where your belly button is. Raise them up and out until they are stretched over your head. Breathe in while you do this. Hold for the count of three. Bring your arms down as per usual as you slowly release the rest of your breath.
  3. Take a breath through your nose and as you exhale count from one to five on that single breath. Do it again but this time count from one to ten. If you feel a wee bit faint or dizzy stop here but practise this exercise regularly to build up your lung capacity. When you are ready,  count on the outflow, from  one to fifteen then one to twenty. This exercise must be done without strain.

Enjoy ANZAC day tomorrow if you are in Australia or New Zealand, Miriam.

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