Emotional Fitness

Harness the power of emotion to deepen your love with your partner, become more successful at work, and more

10 Tips to Extinguish Emotional Fireworks

You can disagree without being disagreeable

When someone gets their knickers in a twist and blows up, how do you handle it? If your current way of dealing with emotional fireworks isn’t working, here are ten tips to help you the next time one happens.

  1. Start by staying calm. Keep yourself from getting sucked into the emotional vortex. Asking yourself, “What is the best thing to do right now?” can help you gain some perspective and keep your own emotions in check.
  2. Try to understand what’s going on for the other person. When you understand, you are more equipped to respond in an empathetic manner. When people feel that someone really knows what they are going through, it helps them; they don’t feel so alone and scared.
  3. Let the other person vent. If someone has a whole bunch of hurt, pain, or anger he or she needs to release, it has to come out, and that can be a difficult thing to experience. Let the other person get out their negative feelings, but don’t become a punching bag.
  4. Look for something positive. There is another side to every upset, but finding it can be a challenge. Taking a few minutes to encourage the person to focus on what is and isn’t working can be very helpful and will discharge a bunch of discomfort.
  5. Be open to suggestions. When feelings get heated, it can be helpful if another person (family member or friend) gives his or her input. Sometimes a fresh set of ears can hear things others can’t.
  6. Create a plan. Having some options you have thought about in advance can be incredibly helpful when strong emotions are flying around the room. For example, you can choose to take a time-out or just remain silent. You can also choose to give the other person some direction.
  7. Don’t fake sincerity. If you really don’t care, or don’t have a good answer, don’t pretend that you do, because it will only cause more upset. The best thing to do is to be honest and say that you are just not the right person to help at this time, and perhaps suggest that the other person talk with a professional.
  8. Accept that you might not be able to do anything. Sometimes people just need to feel their hurt for a little while. Allowing them to experience their feelings, along with your emotional support, may be all you need to do.
  9. Remember that silence can be helpful. Many people are uncomfortable in silence, but it generally doesn’t last very long, and a thoughtful minute or two can help heal or give you perspective on an emotional trauma.
  10. Don’t make the other person feel wrong. We all have emotional moments; they are human and a big part of life. No one is wrong for having feelings.

Emotions are powerful things, and learning how to keep them from going nuclear is a talent that will serve you and your loved ones well.

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Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, columnist, and radio host. His latest book is The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.

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