How To De-Escalate (So Your Head Won’t Explode)

It’s my blog and I’ll vent if I want to.

My teenage daughter is studying overseas this summer on a wonderful program in a beautiful country with a cash economy which means you can’t wave your phone to buy a cup of coffee.

A few weeks into the program we ran into a hiccup with her ability to access cash.

I called Credit Card Company #1 (we’ll call them CitiBank) and from the minute I got a human on the phone I heard:

“I’m sorry we can’t help you with that.”

“I’m sorry we don’t have access to that information.”

“No, ma’am, that’s not something we can do.”

If you are a parent you know exactly what happened. Mama Bear got upset. It was not my finest hour. I was not Teresa Giudice but I was shrill. An F-bomb was dropped as in “stop reading from the f***ing script and talk to me like a human being.”

Of course the problem was not resolved so after collecting myself with a few minutes on Pinterest (my happy place) I called Credit Card #2 (we’ll call them American Express) and from the minute I got a human on the phone I heard:

“Ma’am, you must be beside yourself with worry.”

“Hang on, while I track someone down who can help you.”

And they did.

It feels so good when your blood pressure goes down and the veins in your neck relax.

Seriously, I don’t enjoy losing my cool. I get no pleasure out of being deliberately rude (lord knows, I offend people unintentionally enough) so I turned to my friend and client, Dr. Darcy Sterling for advice on how to de-escalate oneself.

This is useful information – for auditions, job interviews, relationships and customer service calls.

According to Dr Darcy, it’s usually easier to de-escalate others than to do it for ourselves because many of us are emotionally lazy (me??).

Dr Darcy’s 3 Steps to Deescalating Yourself:

PRETEND IT’S NOT OPTIONAL. We don’t lose our shit professionally, generally speaking, so put on your professional hat – I know you have one. There is nothing appropriate, healthy or productive about projectile vomiting onto someone else. This is an exercise in building emotional muscles.

TAKE YOUR TEMPERATURE. On a scale from 0-10, zero being 100% neutral and ten being as bat shit crazy as you can imagine yourself being, give yourself a rating.

0-3 = You’re okay to talk

4-6 = You need a few minutes. Take a time out. Find a reason to excuse yourself and leave the room. Go to the bathroom, splash some cold water on your hands and arms. Take some deep breaths. Give yourself 3-5 minutes before returning. Take your temp again. If you’re not at a 3 or lower, follow the steps in PATTERN INTERRUPT below.

(If you’re in an audition and can’t step out of the room you can pause, breathe and ask for a sip of water. Slow down the action – BBA)

7-8 = You can’t speak productively right now. You’re too triggered. Have a pre-written script that you’ll say to the person “I want to have this conversation when I’m able to do it productively. I’m not there right now. I’ll touch base in an hour and we can schedule some time to revisit this. I promise I won’t blow this off.”

9-10 = You should never even get here. You should know yourself well enough to pull out when you’re at 7-8. At 9-10 you’re not even tapped into the part of your brain where you can be logical. You’re in your Amygdala, which is the part ofy our brain that is in charge of survival, i.e.flight, fight and freeze responses. Disengage immediately and follow the steps below.

PATTERN INTERRUPT. If you’re at 4 or above, you need to deescalate yourself before anything productive can be accomplished. The fastest way to change your emotional state is by changing your physiology. Leave the room that you’re in. Find privacy. Do pushups/situps to exhaustion. If there are steps close to you, run up and down them for 2 minutes. Go into a different room and have a very cold drink of water. If you have any aroma therapy (I keep lavender spray on deck for this reason), spray it. Breathe in. Take a tennis ball or a stress ball and toss it back and forth in your hands for a few minutes, letting your eyes follow the ball. Within 10 minutes you should be below a 4.

Bottom line: It’s a ton of work. You can only deescalate yourself when you’ve built an emotional core, and creating that 6-pack takes practice, honesty and perseverance.

Given the endless research that confirms the relationship between success and Emotional IQ, there’s every reason in the world to work on this and virtually none (a part from laziness) not to.

Follow Dr Darcy on twitter and subscribe to her blog.


Leave a Comment