We are all stressed. And we are dealing with people who are stressed. The combination can lead to sudden eruptions of temper. Words spill out. More are exchanged, and you are left with the fallout. It’s not pretty, and it can have long-term consequences.

How do you feel after one of these verbal explosions? Exhausted? Still simmering? Annoyed with yourself? Are you re-thinking what the other person said? What you said or should have said?

We are in the relationship business. Having a professional relationship with everyone in the building is a job requirement for school librarians. We can’t afford to lose our temper in the heat of the moment. We need to quickly defuse the heat whether it’s ours or theirs.

It’s important to anticipate these outbursts and possibly more important to know how to deal with the consequences. Knowing these confrontations are bound to occur, have a plan for dealing with it to lessen occurrences and/or any damage it does to relationships.

The Leadership Freak’s blog post offers sage advice, giving 7 Proactive Responses to Hot Emotions. The title refers to the focus of the post: reactions are too often an out-of-control response to a situation. As he says in his list of “7 Dangers of Reacting, “The more you react, the more your thinking congeals,” and “The more you react, the more negative consequences you experience.”

The “5 Emotions that Switch on Reaction-mode” according to the Leadership Freak are ones we experience frequently. The first he mentions is Stress, and, as noted we are living with high stress. Discouragement is another emotion he identifies. So many librarians are feeling frustrated about schedules that keep them from doing their job as librarians. It’s no wonder that things boil over.

To deal with these situations, Leadership Freak suggests “7 Powerful Proactive Responses to Hot Emotions.”

  • Gratitude – Thank the person for bringing the issue to your attention. When you do this, focus on the message the other person is sending, not the manner of delivery.
  • Acknowledgement –  Recognizes the other person’s feelings. There are two of you (or more) in this moment. Notice what is happening for them.
  • Space – A time-tested technique for any relationship, personal or professional. It’s counting to ten or the parent classic, “Go to your room, I am too angry to deal with you now.” In the work setting “Give me some time to think about this” achieves the same aim.

If you respond offensively or defensively when someone’s hostility is directed at you, you set off an escalating confrontation. You will need to invest time and effort to restore the relationship to where it was previously. If others were present to hear it you may have some repairs to do there as well.

The scenario is somewhat different when you are the one who starts the conflict. It maybe you were asked to do one more thing and just exploded. Whatever triggered your reaction is not as important as what you do after. That step is crucial.

As soon as possible, apologize, another of Leadership Freak’s proactive responses. It’s best to do so without adding reasons. Start with, “I’m sorry. There is no excuse for my behavior.” Justification is a natural way to remove some of the blame (and shame), but you will get the relationship back on track much faster if you take full responsibility.

And remember, what is true in the work world is also true in your personal life. These outbursts will happen. Be pro-active to de-escalate them rapidly. The more clearly we can communicate, the less stress we’ll have in our relationships and our lives.

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