7 Ways to Avoid Losing Control in Difficult Situations


The market is down, business is bad, and your spouse seems to disagree with you at every turn.

You want to stay calm, but you find yourself feeling irritated, angry, and anxious. You feel like you’re going to lose it, but you can’t help yourself. Does this sound familiar?

You can keep your cool by using these simple techniques:

1. Avoid reacting automatically. We’ve all been there. The conversation goes to a ludicrous place that lacks credibility. You might automatically say something like, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!”

• If you can stay in tune with your feelings, you’ll identify when you’re “heating up” and can avoid damaging reactions.

avoid-losing-control-12. Develop planned responses to controversial subjects. For example, if you hang out with certain friends who always bring up political views opposite of yours, avoid getting involved in the conversation.

• Decide in advance what you’ll say if someone brings up a contentious subject. For example, you could say something like, “I prefer to discuss something other than politics today.”

3. Use diversion to avoid emotionally-loaded topics. If someone mentions a touchy topic, change the subject. “Hey, did you see the hockey game last night?” or “Have you guys tried the new Thai restaurant downtown?” Your friends will notice your lack of interest in the topic at hand.

exit sign4. Head for the exit. If you’re fairly certain you’re about to lash out in anger, immediately exit the situation. When you’re in a group, you can quietly leave. If it’s just you and one other person, you can excuse yourself to use the restroom or make a phone call.

5. Share brief, honest feelings. Depending on the setting and situation, you could state something like, “I’m too upset to discuss this now.” This tells the other person how you feel, so hopefully they will refrain from pushing the issue.

6. Use history to your advantage. If you and a particular co-worker have had negative interactions during previous projects, chances are that the same thing will happen again.

• Recognize that history often repeats itself and avoid unnecessary debates. Minimize contact and maintain your positivity in any necessary exchanges with that co-worker.

acceptance7. Accept others for who they are. Of all these suggestions, this point may be the toughest to accomplish. Realize that each individual is unique and they’re entitled to their own opinion, which may be different from yours.

• Sometimes, it best keeps the peace when you agree that it’s all right to disagree. Each person has their own opinion based on their own life experiences and point of view. Each one is “right” in his own way.

• Another way to look at some situations: you may view your brother-in-law as stubborn, but there’s little you can do to change that. You lack the power to change his mind, but you can control your own temper and reaction.

The power to keep your cool, regardless of the situation, lies with you.

Anger is like flowing water; there’s nothing wrong with it as long as you let it flow. Hate is like stagnant water; anger that you denied yourself the freedom to feel, the freedom to flow; water that you gathered in one place and left to forget. Stagnant water becomes dirty, stinky, disease-ridden, poisonous, deadly; that is your hate. On flowing water travels little paper boats; paper boats of forgiveness. Allow yourself to feel anger, allow your waters to flow, along with all the paper boats of forgiveness. Be human.”  ―C. JoyBell C

If you put these steps into practice, you’ll be able to control your temper in most circumstances. Difficult situations are a part of life and they’ll continue to happen.

But now you’re prepared and ready to maintain your cool.

Photo credits, top to bottom: Thomas Hawk/Flickr, Al King, Maxwell GS, Anders B, audi_insperation, Leyram Odacrem, 55Laney69, Purple Sherbet Photography