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4 More Helpful Things to Say to a Stressed-Out Person Than “Calm Down!”

By | Lea McLeod |

Your team is working on an exciting project that’s getting lots of visibility in your organization. And with that visibility comes a bit of pressure. One of your most impressive colleagues ran into some issues on their part of the project after some difficulty with another team. Those frustrations are mounting. Their voice rises as they’re relaying the latest roadblock they’ve encountered. Now, you’re concerned that they might have a meltdown in the wrong place, at the wrong time, undoing all the great reputation building they’ve done.

Not wanting them to embarrass themself, you pull them aside and beseech them to “calm down.”

One look at their expression, and you realize that telling an upset colleague to calm down wasn’t brilliant; in fact, you may have just thrown a little gasoline on their already-roaring fire.

“Calm down? Calm down? Don’t tell me to calm down!” they practically yell.

Now they’re not just mad about the day, they’re totally pissed off at you.

Unfortunately, these well-intentioned words don’t often go over well. Instead of the receiver hearing them as a caring attempt to help process an unruly workday, they probably feel dismissed.

Even though your intentions no doubt came from a helpful place, you’ve learned the hard way that telling someone to calm down usually backfires.

But if you had a redo, what could you have said or done instead? Ahead, four ideas that work a heck of a lot better than the patronizing “calm down.” Hopefully, you’ll be able to keep happy hour, well, happy.

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