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Senior Correspondent

The only progress you can make in emotionally charged situations is dealing with emotions. 


Emotionally charged people may want you to fix things. If you’re able to change frustrating processes or procedures, do it. But, fixing may reinforce negative behaviors. 

The person who gets what they want after throwing a fit learns to throw more fits. 

Enable people to address their own concerns. Avoid solving “for.” 

Defusing Strong Emotions

A Leadership Freak reader asked, “How can I defuse emotions?” 

1. Defusing seems arrogant, even though I suggested it yesterday.
2. Validating and affirming emotion seem better than defusing it.
3. Don’t ignore or belittle emotions. Do yourself and others a favor; stop pretending everything’s okay when, in reality, it isn’t.
4. Explore values. Anger indicates that we care deeply about something, for example.
5. Ask, “What do you want?” Emotionally charged people frequently blame others and forget what they want.
6. Ask, “What can you do to get what you want?”
7. When possible, postpone; allow time for feelings to cool.
8. Avoid threatening postures. Step back a few inches. “In your face” doesn’t work.
9. Invite them to sit with you. Sit to the side rather than front on.
10. Create open space between; remove barriers.
11. Lower your voice.
12. Soften your tone.
13. Talk while walking slowly.
14. Follow up, if you postponed. Some emotions, if not addressed, grow destructive with time — bitterness, for example.
15. Step back and explore the big picture. It’s not about sides.
16. Avoid being pressured to make decisions.


It takes at least fifteen minutes, usually more, for the impact of adrenaline to subside.

Adrenaline raises your heart rate, fuels aggression and reddens your face. Additionally, your voice gets louder and your hands get shaky. It’s all normal, but not always helpful. I suggest you get away until your biology settles down. Go for a slow walk.

How do you succeed in emotionally charged situations?

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