Author Topic: "I don't want to calm down!"  (Read 11669 times)

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Arila

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #15 on: February 12, 2014, 04:40:31 PM »
I think there a lot of things which are true and make sense -- "You can better advocate for yourself if you are collected and articulate" But pretty much none of them can be said to a person in the moment. It just won't get through. Honestly, when I get weepy about something, Thinking about the fact that I'm weepy and wishing that I wasn't sometimes breaks the whole dam loose!

I would worry a bit less about someone visibly upset in front of prospective students, they can come to any number of conclusions, including "Wow, this school is great, they will take care of me even when things are rough!"

wolfie

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #16 on: February 12, 2014, 04:47:08 PM »
Maybe you need to be less soothing and less of an audience for people who seem drama-queen prone. Feel free to get chillier and less welcoming as they get more hysterical.
This is not likely to diffuse the situation.

Perhaps not, but I do think that being soothing can encourage the drama-prone.

I think the OP is perhaps overextending her role--and I think it would REALLY overextend her role to offer people tissues, glass of water, etc. Just say, "I'm sorry you're upset; please have a seat and give me a moment to think what I can do to help you. No, please sit down over there, I need to concentrate."
  Or maybe even, "Is there a friend you can call, since you're upset and need someone to talk to? Perhaps that might help you."


that would make me even more upset. I don't need a friend - I need you to help me with my issue! It sounds pretty patronizing. I think the best thing for the OP to do is acknowledge that the person is upset, tell them you will work on getting someone who can help, but that might take a few minutes so could you sit over there while I work on getting them here?

dawbs

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #17 on: February 12, 2014, 04:49:18 PM »
I'm going to echo that telling someone to calm down has good odds as being seen as patronizing and is unlikely to help--honestly, by the time people are college students they generally will either know how to calm themselves down or else they know they need their 'head of steam' to hold it together until they finish their conversation.

I talka lot of students down during a day too, and I find spelling out what the next step(s) will be doesn't calm them down but gives them expectations.
"Okay, I have contacted the dean, she will be happy to meet with you at 3:00.  You are welcome to wait in one of the chairs in the lobby or to go somewhere else until 3:00 when she will meet with you" (you're not telling them 'go away', but you are giving options as to where to be--and one of the options isn't hovering at your desk).
When that^ doesn't work, I follow with something like "I'm afraid that I'm not able to help further until you take it up with the dean--and that appointment is for 3:00.  For now, though, I do have to get back to work and since I'm working with confidential student data, I'm going to have to ask that you either take a break and go elsewhere or wait in the lobby area until your 3:00 appointment"


violinp

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #18 on: February 12, 2014, 04:50:32 PM »
"I understand you're upset; however, I cannot speak to you until you have calmed down. I'll wait until you're ready."
"It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but even more to stand up to your friends" - Harry Potter


TurtleDove

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #19 on: February 12, 2014, 04:51:55 PM »
"I understand you're upset; however, I cannot speak to you until you have calmed down. I'll wait until you're ready."

In my experience this would backfire.  If I were upset and someone said this to me it would increase my ire, not calm me down. 

wolfie

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #20 on: February 12, 2014, 04:53:52 PM »
"I understand you're upset; however, I cannot speak to you until you have calmed down. I'll wait until you're ready."

In my experience this would backfire.  If I were upset and someone said this to me it would increase my ire, not calm me down.

I agree - this is an area you need to tread very carefully because most things will seem patronizing or an attempt to not help.

figee

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #21 on: February 12, 2014, 04:57:37 PM »
The other thing is that people 'often' tell women that they are upset and need to calm down.  There is a difference between being upset and being angry, so for me when people say that I'm upset and need to calm down, they are telling me: first that I'm not angry, when I am, second, that I have no right to be angry, and third that my legitimate anger has no place in public.

So that very rarely ends well for the person telling me to calm down. 

violinp

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #22 on: February 12, 2014, 04:59:51 PM »
"I understand you're upset; however, I cannot speak to you until you have calmed down. I'll wait until you're ready."

In my experience this would backfire.  If I were upset and someone said this to me it would increase my ire, not calm me down.

Well, I generally can't understand people if they're crying, because it's hard for them to speak, and I have hearing difficulties as it is. I can't speak to someone who's freaking out and crying, because I truly cannot comprehend their words. I can't imagine what I should do if someone's sobbing so hard I can barely understand them, but doesn't want to be told that I can't understand them and that I'll have to wait until they're ready to speak. I don't automatically know what words will set off someone who's already not fully in control of their emotions.
"It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but even more to stand up to your friends" - Harry Potter


TurtleDove

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #23 on: February 12, 2014, 05:10:36 PM »
"I understand you're upset; however, I cannot speak to you until you have calmed down. I'll wait until you're ready."

In my experience this would backfire.  If I were upset and someone said this to me it would increase my ire, not calm me down.

Well, I generally can't understand people if they're crying, because it's hard for them to speak, and I have hearing difficulties as it is. I can't speak to someone who's freaking out and crying, because I truly cannot comprehend their words. I can't imagine what I should do if someone's sobbing so hard I can barely understand them, but doesn't want to be told that I can't understand them and that I'll have to wait until they're ready to speak. I don't automatically know what words will set off someone who's already not fully in control of their emotions.

Well, you have completely changed the facts.  For me, when I am upset and angry I am in fact fully in control on my emotions.  I am not sobbing or loud or difficult to understand. If someone were to tell me to calm down it would come across as dismissing my legitimate concerns.


Psychopoesie

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #24 on: February 12, 2014, 05:36:01 PM »
Agree with PPs who say don't say calm down and don't soothe. I'd also add don't interrupt - let them say their piece. Acknowledge what the person is feeling, summarise their issue, tell them what you're going to do about it (e.g. Schedule an appointment at the earliest opportunity with the relevant advisor). Great idea to ask them to take a seat while you make some calls. Fine to offer tissues if someone's crying.

If you genuinely can't understand what the person is saying because they are so upset (as violinp mentions), you might say, "I can see you're upset and want to help. I'm having a hard time hearing what you're saying though." You can always ask them to speak up or slow down a little to help you hear what they're saying. Just be prepared for them to still be upset, angry or crying - only speaking more clearly.

It doesn't sound like the students you are talking to are being aggressive so it doesn't sound like a moment to threaten to call security or actually call them.

If this is part of your job, I'd also check if your workplace has any training to help its public contact staff deal with difficult customers/students.

Arila

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #25 on: February 12, 2014, 05:54:50 PM »
I just wanted to point out that the exceptionally upset student from the OP was "Almost in tears" Not sobbing or blubbing or stuttering.

laud_shy_girl

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #26 on: February 12, 2014, 06:27:58 PM »
What about redirecting her energy.

If the altercation was one incident, give her a pen and paper and ask her to write an incident report while you contact xyz.

This will get her calmed down as she will need to sit and think and the act of putting it on paper can be therapeutic in and of itself.

You should ask your employer for conflict resolution training. I did it for one job and have found it invaluable in all aspects of my life.
“For too long, we've assumed that there is a single template for human nature, which is why we diagnose most deviations as disorders. But the reality is that there are many different kinds of minds. And that's a very good thing.” - Jonah Lehrer

Onyx_TKD

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #27 on: February 12, 2014, 06:38:59 PM »
"I understand you're upset; however, I cannot speak to you until you have calmed down. I'll wait until you're ready."

In my experience this would backfire.  If I were upset and someone said this to me it would increase my ire, not calm me down.

Well, I generally can't understand people if they're crying, because it's hard for them to speak, and I have hearing difficulties as it is. I can't speak to someone who's freaking out and crying, because I truly cannot comprehend their words. I can't imagine what I should do if someone's sobbing so hard I can barely understand them, but doesn't want to be told that I can't understand them and that I'll have to wait until they're ready to speak. I don't automatically know what words will set off someone who's already not fully in control of their emotions.

If you can't understand what they're saying, then the problem is that you can't understand them, not that they're crying. There may be a correlation between people crying and you having difficulty understanding them, but the lack of understanding is still the actual problem. Your earlier post said "I cannot speak to you until you have calmed down," not "I can't understand you." No one here has said that telling someone you're having trouble understanding them is unreasonable.

Also, telling someone who's sobbing that you can't talk to them until they've "calmed down" isn't likely to solve your problem. IME, sobbing is a very unpleasant activity, and people don't do it by choice (I suppose someone might fake it by choice, but genuine sobbing? No.). Telling them you can't help them while they're sobbing isn't going to enable them to switch off the tears (unless they're faking it). However, telling them that you can't understand what they're saying might help them find a way to actually communicate. Even if they can't stop crying, they might be able to speak more slowly, consciously try to enunciate better, or write it down instead of talking. They're not going to realize they should try those things if all you'll tell them is to calm down before you'll help.

Seraphia

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #28 on: February 12, 2014, 06:50:57 PM »
What about redirecting her energy.

If the altercation was one incident, give her a pen and paper and ask her to write an incident report while you contact xyz.

This will get her calmed down as she will need to sit and think and the act of putting it on paper can be therapeutic in and of itself.

You should ask your employer for conflict resolution training. I did it for one job and have found it invaluable in all aspects of my life.

I think this is the optimal idea. Clearly, the student felt like she needed the steam of her upset to power her through actually making the complaint. Helping her formulate her argument will be more productive for her by giving her a way to direct her emotions into action rather than at the OP. Even saying: "Ok, if you want, I have pen and paper here so you can make a list of the points you want to make with the dean, s/he will be here in fifteen minutes," might be enough.
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sweetonsno

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #29 on: February 12, 2014, 06:57:59 PM »
I absolutely agree that you shouldn't tell them to "calm down" unless you want to guarantee that they won't.

I like the idea of repeating to them their problem as you understand it. That immediately tells them that you have listened to them. Then, I think you can offer them a seat or excuse yourself while you take whatever action you can. Let them know what you're doing.

"That sounds very frustrating. Let me make sure I'm clear on the situation. As I understand it, you're disputing a late penalty because of extenuating circumstances. Dr. X took off the regular late penalty because you submitted your report two days late. However, the assignment was late because you lost power and internet due to the snowstorm and were unable to reach him or get to campus. You've already talked with him and he says his decision is final. You'd like to appeal your grade on that assignment. Is that right? Okay, you'll need to talk to the departmental chair. I think he is in a meeting right now, but I'll call his assistant, Shirley Ulissen to find out. If he's still in the meetings, she'll be able to schedule an appointment for you. If you'd like to have a seat, I'll give her a call right now." Then look away from the student (and down at your phone, directory, whatever) and start doing something so she knows you are taking action.

I do think that most people who are upset in a case like this mostly want to be heard and understood, have someone acknowledge their anger/sadness, and then have the assurance that someone is taking action on their behalf.