Mental health & wellbeing matters: lowering the temperature

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In our regular spot where we focus on mental health and wellbeing, a couple of thoughts on when conversations get a bit heated.

Hello and a very warm welcome to the spot on the site where we chat about mental health, wellbeing, the things that affect us, and, well, stuff. This is a weekly series, save for the occasional week off. We’ve been running these articles for years now, and hopefully over the course of them there’s something that’s of use to you.

This week, just a few words on the temperature of conversations, and how easy it is to get sucked into an argument, a row, a shouting match, or just something where the red mist falls. Tricky one, this. I used to work with a man who just looked like nothing phased him. His demeanour was calm, he never seemed to get riled… but of course, he did. I had a quiet chat with his other half once, and it turned out it was something he had to work really, really hard at. I admired that, and wished I could do it. I have red mist moments and it takes a lot of counting to calm them down.

That’s my trick for trying to drop the temperature of raised conversations, too. Taught to me by a maths teacher when I was 12. Just count to ten. Doesn’t always work, but on the flip side, it does tend to be the more simple stuff that proves the most effective.

What I’ve learned over time is that if people are shouting and screaming in your direction, it’s hard to think of a single example where shouting and screaming back has achieved any positive outcome. I’m not someone who feels better after a shout either. If anything, it makes my throat hurt!

Oftentimes though, just walking away for ten minutes, or taking a small time out, can make the world of difference. Crucially, it puts you back in control of what you’re saying and what you’re feeling. It tends to take the snappiness away, and lowers the chances of you saying something you’re likely to regret.

High pressured situations sometimes don’t afford such time outs. I’ve worked in deadline-driven environments for virtually all my life, and I’ve seen people response to them in very different ways. But for the most part, an attempt to lower the temperature of a conversation, an argument, a disagreement, a row, is rarely wasted. Well, assuming you time out for a bit. Telling people to calm down, top tip, has the habit of pouring a few more cans of petrol on the fire!

Thanks, as always, for reading. You all take care, and this column will return next Wednesday.

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