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3 Ways to Diffuse a Heated Moment like a Zen Master
Couple arguing and trying to diffuse tension

3 Ways to Diffuse a Heated Moment like a Zen Master

Sometimes, things get heated– really heated.

Why? Here are a few examples:

  • Bickering with your partner until it turns into a full-blown fight
  • A fundamental disagreement with a colleague over a project
  • A comment from your boss that ruffles your feathers


You're trying to avoid saying something you’ll regret. After all, the repercussions are great. Say something you don’t mean in a heated moment and you could damage an important personal or professional relationship.

And such situations don’t offer the ability to just get up and walk away. So, what are you to do?

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

– Harry S. Truman

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to diffuse a heated moment. Here are three:

1. Stop and breathe

The first way you can diffuse the anger in the room is by cooling yourself down.

The problem with arguments like this is both people get worked up to the point where they’re acting irrationally in an effort to protect themselves. It’s a natural reaction that’s to be expected, however, that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

So, stop running in circles for a moment and turn your attention to your body. Feel your increased heart rate, the subtle shaking of the body, and the clouds in your head.

Turn to your breathing and focus on it even if only for a few seconds. You’ll be surprised at just how much you can cool yourself down in a few short seconds of this and, as a result, help diffuse the situation as a whole.

2. Take the lead by expressing remorse

These next two points are about cooling the other person down, either by taking the initiative to create a resolution or simply interrupting their train of thought.

When you’re butting heads fiercely with another person, you don’t want to give them an inch– and neither do they.

However, by opening up to the other person and expressing regret over how you acted (or reacted), you can cause the other person to cool off and retract themselves just enough for both people to find the common ground necessary to diffuse things.

So, take a moment to express remorse for how you acted. Admit that you might have gotten a little worked up and apologize for what you might have said or done.

3. Compliment the other person

Complimenting the other person has the ability to “interrupt” their train of thought, so it’s a great way to throw them off and can lead to some entertaining reactions.

In all seriousness, though, taking a moment to compliment the other person has a similar effect to the previous point– it causes the other person’s thought process to become broken just long enough for them to “snap” out of the trance of anger we often find ourselves in during heated situations.

For example, if you’re arguing with a colleague about a new marketing plan, when things get heated you can say something like, “I have immense respect for you [Name], you’re easily one of the best people I know at formulating these kind of strategies. I just feel that it would be worth our time to try something else.”

A compliment such as this softens your approach, makes them step back, and lets them know that you’re not attacking them personally, which is the reason we often react so vehemently in heated situations.

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