Fiona RobardsHow good are you at keeping calm when things heat up?

It can be difficult to hold our tongue when we’re upset or offended, but for the sake of our happiness, it’s important. Next time you are offended by something or someone, stop and think how to communicate clearly and confidently

Aim to respond rather than to react. Give yourself time before responding because often, in the heat of the moment, we say things we live to regret. In other words, when you are angry you are not thinking straight. If you are angry, it’s most likely that people will see only your anger and not hear what is important to you.

Think through the possibilities and different ways of seeing a situation. It might be helpful to take some time out to think about what has happened, in order to reflect and take some deep breaths. This will help you frame a positive response rather than a hasty reaction.

When you’ve thought about what you want to achieve by responding, and are ready to confront the issue, speak calmly and clearly and check your body language and tone of voice. Practice assertiveness.

Assertiveness means communicating your needs, wants, feelings, beliefs and opinions to other people in a clear and direct manner, while still respecting other perspectives. A good way to understand assertiveness is to differentiate it from being passive or aggressive.

A passive response is to avoid conflict and to not speak up when you’re offended, angered or your needs aren’t being considered. The trouble with passivity is that others have no idea about your views, and therefore won’t value your needs. You end up feeling helpless.

If you find yourself saying, ‘It doesn’t matter to me’ or using unconfident body language, assess whether you really do not mind or if you are just responding passively. Sometimes people use such statements to hide their deepest concerns.

At the other extreme are people who always push for their needs to be met without compromise. This includes people who bully or push others around, possibly even using threats or yelling, and who use aggressive body language like waving a fist or banging tables. This is not what is meant or implied by being assertive.

The middle ground — being assertive — involves using direct and clear communication, speaking clearly and with confidence, while respecting others. Using statements like, ‘What I would like is ...’, having confident body language, and listening to other people’s points of view demonstrates assertiveness.

Being assertive means that you can manage your anger better, have your needs heard (and make it more likely they will be met), minimize conflict, and have better relationships. It means being able to express yourself confidently without fear of contradiction.

Finally, ask yourself the following questions and see how well you can answer them:

  • • How can you manage challenging situations in a more positive way?
  • • What helps you to communicate more clearly and confidently?

by Fiona Robards, author of What Makes You Happy?