Calming someone down when they’re upset, anxious, or having a meltdown requires a lot of patience. While some strategies work better than others, some can actually make the situation worse and should be avoided. So, in this post, we tell you what works, what doesn’t, and how to show empathy when engaging an agitated person to effectively diffuse the situation. We also tell you when to remove yourself from the situation. Keep reading!
Best Methods to Calm Someone Down
When it comes to calming people down, the most important thing is to make them feel heard and understood. So, next time you’re sitting with a family member, friend, or acquaintance in distress, use these tactics from Midss’s mental health experts to enhance their emotional state and help them stay calm.
Even if you have dealt with a situation similar to the one the person is in before, don’t just jump in and start offering solutions. Give the person a chance to express themselves and explain what’s going on. Importantly, make sure you are listening so you can understand where they are coming from.
But don’t just sit there silently nodding; ask questions periodically so the person knows you’re listening. Questions like, “What was it like to experience that?” or “What did that make you feel”, for instance, will not only assure the person that they are being heard but also promote discovery so you can understand the situation better. While at it, let them know you validate their feelings by using reassuring statements like “I understand how you feel” or “That must be really stressful”. That way, they will feel they can talk to you freely without being attacked or judged.
Avoid Telling the Person To Calm Down
Perhaps your first instinct will be to tell the person to chill out. Don’t do it, as it will just add more fuel. Words like “Calm down”, “Take it easy”, or “Don’t worry about it” often come across as condescending and will only upset an angry person more even if they are said in a calm voice. The individual feels like you are dismissing their feelings and telling them what to do without even giving them a chance to explain themselves. And that may not sit well with them.
Instead of telling an anxious or upset person to calm down, try using statements like, “You seem to be really sad right now, would you like me to stay?” or “I’m here for you, let me know how I can help”. Such words validate the person’s feelings and let them know it’s okay to have such feelings and that you’re there for them.
Use Humor to Lighten Their Mood
Humor can be a great tool for fighting anger. When we laugh, we trigger the release of endorphins, hormones that promote pleasure and calmness in our brains and create a feeling of happiness. Thus, pausing and identifying something humorous in the situation and laughing about it can help diffuse the situation and potentially bring down the anger.
However, humor must be administered with caution. Not every person will appreciate you joking about a stressful situation they are in. That being said, you need to take the time to know the person on a fairly deeper level to determine whether being witty will work.
Ask Them How You Can Help
Sometimes all an angry or nervous person wants to know is that someone has their back. Listen to the person and clearly convey to them that they’re not alone and you’re willing to offer a helping hand. Even a simple statement like “What would you like me to do?” can go a long way in diffusing the situation and making an outraged person feel better.
Step Away if You Feel Threatened
It doesn’t matter how close you are to the person you’re trying to help; only stick around if they are engaging you in a safe and healthy manner. If the individual starts to become cruel to you, using unkind words or pushing your buttons, let them know their behavior is unacceptable and remove yourself from the situation to avoid making things worse.
How to Be More Empathetic?
You show empathy by connecting with someone else’s pain or struggle; it shows you understand how the other person feels, and that makes them feel supported and safe to open up to you about their problem.
Oftentimes, angry people will start to simmer down if someone assures them that what they are feeling is justified. They really just want someone to listen and affirm their point of view without judgment. Sure, it can be difficult to withhold snap judgments especially if you’re interacting with the person for the first time, but not being too quick to say what is right or wrong is an important step toward being empathetic.
Also, don’t forget to appreciate the person for opening up to you. Most people don’t want to get vulnerable or share their struggles because they have perhaps been burned before and fear that they might not get an empathetic response. If a person chooses to share with you, it shows that they trust you. Thus, it’s your job to show gratitude and respond with mindfulness.
The Bottom Line
There’s a lot that we can do to diffuse someone’s anger, stress, or anxiety without necessarily telling them to calm down. But the most important thing is to make the person know that you acknowledge their feelings and you’re willing to help. Listen attentively so you can understand where they’re coming from, offer an empathetic response, and come up with a good solution.
Frequently Asked Questions
When Will They Need Professional Help?
In some instances, the symptoms of distress, anger, or panic attacks can be similar to those of serious medical conditions like heart attack or high blood pressure. So if an agitated person experiences lightheadedness, difficulty breathing, chest pain, or heart palpitations for an extended period, they should seek professional help.
What I Shouldn’t Say When Calming Someone Down?
Do not tell an outraged person to “Relax”, “Take it easy”, or “Calm down”. While you may instinctively feel the urge to use such statements to calm people down, you may come off as controlling and as if you are invalidating the person’s feelings. In most cases, it will only make the individual feel worse.