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Turn down the heat

Advice on how to stay at home together without getting hot under the collar

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Social distancing is tough. It can be hard to stay home every day, with the same people. And as the stay at home orders get extended, it can begin wear on everyone in the household. 

But before you get pushed to your limits about someone not replacing the toilet paper again, here are a few tips from Bob VandePol with Pinerest Christian Mental Health Services.

Credit: Pinerest Christian Mental Health Services

Respond in a respectful way. Sometimes moving the conversation to a private (but safe) setting spares them the added embarrassment of losing it in public. An audience can also fuel additional emotional explosion.

Language like “I certainly understand being angry in situations like this.” communicates that you are taking their concern seriously and respectfully. Denial, minimization, projecting blame elsewhere, or sweeping it under the rug only serve to incite further rage.

Reflect back what you hear. Time is your friend so give them time for their body chemistry to self-regulate. People want to be heard and understood.

Although difficult, try to reframe their aggressiveness toward yourself as “They need a target for their anger and must view me as strong enough to take it.”

Get curious. Asking rather than telling can be disarming. Tone is important so they do not feel attacked back. Avoid an argumentative tone. This is not a competition and winning the battle likely means losing the war.

Speak a bit more slowly, calmly, and lower in timbre. There is tremendous power in calm presence.

(Any healthy part of their message). For example, if someone is irate and projecting blame following a workplace mistake, language such as “I admire the fact that you really care about the quality of our work. This is really important to you” can help you align and reduce defensiveness.

Try to identify one reasonable next step; even if it is setting time for a problem-solving meeting about their concern.

Taking a one-down position from a stance of strength can be very disarming.

Remember, anger is contagious. So is calm.

Good crisis management prevents a bad situation from getting even worse. Serving as “anger designated driver” for people when they are not at their best can contain the issue and avoid additional problems.


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