5 Ways to Keep Your Cool in a Professional Environment

It’s a new year and it’s a new you. You make it a point to start being nicer to people and be, overall, more considerate. Until that moment when someone at work says that one thing that really ticks you off…

Your inner voice tells you to calm down and simply ignore them. But the thought of someone being so condescending is simply enough to make your blood boil. You want to blow up at the person – maybe by snapping at them or hanging up on them over the phone – feeling validated that you were able to express your righteous anger. But while that anger probably made you feel empowered in the moment, it can have  significant consequences on your professional image.

At the same time, to get irate from time to time is human. We all have those moments in the office where emotion comes into play. A difficult client turns a great product or meeting sour or your boss derides you over something you can’t control. These are stressful situations that would frustrate any person.

So how can you manage that anger when such situations arise and keep your cool at work? Start the year off right by applying these tips:

1. Breathe. Sounds simple enough, right? In the heat of the moment, you might be tempted to yell or say something nasty. Just close your mouth and take a few seconds. Close your eyes and count to 10, inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth. This gives you an opportunity to pause, slow your racing thoughts and collect yourself before you say something that you’ll regret.

 2. Take a walk. Sometimes, even after you’ve taken a moment to breathe, you might still feel the hurt that caused your anger in the first place. Burn off that anger like you’d burn off calories at the gym and take a brisk walk. Whether it’s pacing in a circle or going outside to get some fresh air, physical activity is proven to reduce stress. You’ll be able to think more calmly and rationally about the situation once you’ve moved around.

3. Write it (but don’t send it). Take some time to reflect on the situation or person that’s making you angry. Write a letter to them and say whatever you feel you need to say. You might even need to drop an explicit here and there. Writing can be a helpful medium for release when you need to put your feelings into words. Whatever you do though, make sure you thoroughly destroy that paper before accidentally sending it to someone or having it be discovered.

4. Talk it out. Sometimes it may be necessary to have a difficult conversation. Make sure you’ve gotten all your venting out to a friend or trusted colleague at work so you can get some feedback about how to move forward. Then, approach the offending person. Maybe you need to discuss some negative feedback you’ve received from your boss or why you got passed up on a promotion. Maybe you need to smooth things out with a colleague who’s difficult to work with. It will probably be awkward and uncomfortable but stating how you felt and specific ways you would like to move forward are important for personal and professional growth. 

5. Remember the 10-year rule. A close colleague once shared what she learned from a sermon, “Will this anger that I feel right now about this particular situation matter ten years from now?” Chances are, the majority of the time your answer is going to be “no.” Use the “10-year-rule” as a means of gauging how important the point of frustration is to you. Yes, a pass over a promotion can hurt, a rude comment can sting and some colleagues may be impossible to deal with. But are these things or people worth your own peace of mind? Most likely, you won’t even remember what made you so angry even one year from now.

As Malachy McCourt once said, “[Anger] or resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Anger may feel good and even justified in the moment, but the payoffs of keeping your cool at work are much greater than letting your anger control you.

To read more about millennials, check out our First 5 series.

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Brian Schooley

Francesca…all five points are important. Abraham Lincoln embraced your third point. He often wrote scathing letters to cabinet members for field generals, and then stash them in his desk. It helped him release his feelings and get the anger out. Then, he focused on what needed to be done without allowing the emotion to overcome the needs. And as for Step 5, I need to write that in big letters in my planner!