4 Ways to Keep Your Cool When Things Get Hot at Work.


You’re engaged in a discussion at work and before you know it, things escalate. Your nerves are firing, your heart rate and blood pressure have boarded the up elevator and the steam coming from your head is enough to de-wrinkle your slacks! Your amygdala has been hijacked and your perception of threat and danger is that to survival in the wild. You are now in fight or flight mode.

Your ability to think clearly is compromised and your frustration is all over your face and in your body language.

Your colleague now sees a boiling kettle were your face used to be. And just like that, through the magic of mirror neurons, he starts feeling and acting the same way and the conversation has derailed.

A survival feature of pack animals, mirror neurons are a type of brain cell that fires when you perform an action and also when you watch someone else perform the same action. It’s not only monkey see monkey do, but it’s also colleague see colleague do.

It can be challenging to remain composed and poised during a heated debate, but both are trainable. Here are some suggestions:

  • 1. Use mindfulness to reflect the opposite behavior. If your colleague is giving off erratic and abrasive vibes, you give composed and diplomatic. (Your mind and body will thank you later)
  • 2. Minimize the assumption mindset. Don’t assume that just because someone has made a suggestion about your work, that they’re saying it’s poor or completely wrong. They could be providing some needed pushback that can ultimately improve your final product.
  • 3. Filter out poor delivery. Focus on extracting any usable information or feedback rather than your colleague’s poor delivery skills. You can address the behavior afterwards more effectively with a cool core.
  • 4. Know your cognitive biases. Be honest with yourself on whether you are feeling a certain way because of biases you may have against your colleague or others like them. To know your biases, is to know yourself and strengthens your position.

Calm in the workplace storm can be an epic feat. Maybe because as human we are primed to reflect back what we see. Nonetheless, with a little practice, we can develop new skills to buffer our mind against it.