Author Topic: "I don't want to calm down!"  (Read 12406 times)

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TootsNYC

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #30 on: February 12, 2014, 07:15:00 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?

I would do the "friend you can call?" if they didn't take the first "Why don't you have a seat while I figure out what the best move forward is" suggestion, or if they were going on and on.
    I would actually intend it to be a hint that they were a bit over the top--and so I'd only use it on someone who was escalating.

And I'm also on the "people want their frustration to be acknowledged and to feel heard and understood"--but I felt that the OP had already done it.
   Though, she did say "soothing," and maybe that's the problem; maybe it's coming across as soothing but not as validating or helpful. In which case, being less soothing and more practical and directed would be a good choice.

Winterlight

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #31 on: February 12, 2014, 07:26:00 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.

Good point.  I've been told to calm down by guys who were frothing- but because I'm female, somehow I was more emotional than the person who just punched his hand through the sheetrock. /eyeroll
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Piratelvr1121

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #32 on: February 12, 2014, 07:39:42 PM »
I'm one who is hard to understand when I'm crying and I know that cause my friend has told me that when we talk on the phone and I'm upset, I get "screechy" and she can't understand me.   She knows better than to say "calm down" but when she does say she can't understand me I do take a deep breath.

Perhaps "I understand you're angry, but I'm having a hard time understanding you. I understand you want to keep this head of steam going, but would you like a paper and pen so you can write out and organize your thoughts while you wait?" could work?
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TootsNYC

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #33 on: February 12, 2014, 07:44:02 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.

Good point.  I've been told to calm down by guys who were frothing- but because I'm female, somehow I was more emotional than the person who just punched his hand through the sheetrock. /eyeroll

I think that's what upset me so much at the car-rental place.

I was angry, and I felt it was justifiable. We'd been reasonable, then firm, and she still stood there just looking at us, doing nothing. It felt as if I *had* to escalate. Especially because I was mad -at her-, I felt she was the cause of my upset.

SamiHami

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #34 on: February 12, 2014, 08:19:39 PM »
She was teary but I had no trouble understanding her so that wasn't a problem in this particular instance. I really like the suggestion of offering a pen & pad to let her write down her thoughts. It seems it would give her something to do while I am doing what I need to do.

I agree that  encouraging people to calm down is a bad idea. I will definitely curb that in future situations.

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Oh Joy

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #35 on: February 12, 2014, 08:36:29 PM »
I see the problem as being that 'calming down' means two different things...emotion and behavior.  When you tell someone to calm down when you mean behavior and they hear you tell them how to feel, well, that can cause all sorts of issues when dealing with someone who is upset.

I suggest acknowledging the emotion and requesting the behavior.  Situation Dictates Procedure, but an approach more like 'That sounds frustrating.  I'm going to see what I can do to help.  Can I ask you to wait in our guest chairs while I look something up/make a phone call/summon a unicorn?' may be both courteous and effective.

Best wishes.

dawbs

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #36 on: February 12, 2014, 10:17:32 PM »
Several people mentioned re-iterating your understanding of the problem...this is individual, but I would *not* do that.

If I say to a student "So, what I"m hearing you say is that Professor McPhealy insulted your mother and picked his nose and offended you", the odds that my boss is told "well, the lady at the desk *said* that she understood it was offensive" are much to high.
Might just be me--if I were in a different role, I might handle it differently, but, IME, with upset students, repeating back their problem is often taken as a validation and as an assumption that I will take their side and make my boss understand/take their side--which is *not* going to be the case.
YMMV, ov course.

blarg314

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #37 on: February 13, 2014, 03:56:20 AM »

In the case in the OP, I think I would respond with "I know that you're angry. But we can't do anything until your advisor gets here, so you'll need to wait," maybe point them out to a seat, and then go on with my job.  The fact that she wants to throw a temper tantrum in the lobby because she wants her problem solved *right now*, when the person helping her is 1) being polite and helpful and 2) has just done what can be done right now to the best of their ability doesn't mean I have to suddenly flip into trauma counsellor mode. I find that when someone is determined to be angry, and there is nothing you can do that will satisfy them, *nothing* you do, no matter how tactful, is going to make them calm down.

If it were a case of someone who was actually hysterical - crying uncontrollably, can't be understood, having a full out meltdown, is there a campus service that can be called for emergencies - health services, counselling centre, etc., who could send over someone who has expertise in dealing with psychological issues? Because that's not really the kind of thing I'd expect a random admin/help desk person to be able to deal with.

cicero

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #38 on: February 13, 2014, 04:32:36 AM »

In the case in the OP, I think I would respond with "I know that you're angry. But we can't do anything until your advisor gets here, so you'll need to wait," maybe point them out to a seat, and then go on with my job.  The fact that she wants to throw a temper tantrum in the lobby because she wants her problem solved *right now*, when the person helping her is 1) being polite and helpful and 2) has just done what can be done right now to the best of their ability doesn't mean I have to suddenly flip into trauma counsellor mode. I find that when someone is determined to be angry, and there is nothing you can do that will satisfy them, *nothing* you do, no matter how tactful, is going to make them calm down.

If it were a case of someone who was actually hysterical - crying uncontrollably, can't be understood, having a full out meltdown, is there a campus service that can be called for emergencies - health services, counselling centre, etc., who could send over someone who has expertise in dealing with psychological issues? Because that's not really the kind of thing I'd expect a random admin/help desk person to be able to deal with.
thank you. that's what's been bothering me about this - the 'crying' or 'almost crying' shouldnt' even be an issue here. this student has to learn that there are ways to do things "in the real world" - and crying when you don't get your way isn't one of them. and the OP shouldn't have to worry, walk around on eggshells in case a student decides to withdraw or throw a tantrum in the hallway. I *really* can't imagine a situation where a potential student will see an hysterical student crying about her grades and "the stupid bureaucrats didn't even listen to me" and go "oh, no way am i going to this school! they made her cry!".

I'm with the "be nice/functional/practical and try to ignore the tears" team. i'm not saying to be mean, and you might want to have a box of tissues at the ready, but that's about as far as i would go.

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English1

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #39 on: February 13, 2014, 05:17:29 AM »
I get all the 'fun' jobs at work and that includes dealing with any internal conflict/complaints from clients. Because I'm good at calming people down and sorting out the actual problem. I think 10 years of marriage to someone with mental health problems, and a relative who has psychotic episodes has taught me the way to deal with anyone who's flaring up.

Telling people to 'calm down', is like throwing oil on to a fire. They feel the way they feel, and they may well have good reasons for feeling that way.

The best way is to stay very calm yourself, acknowledge how they are feeling (without agreeing or taking a position on what they are saying), and tell them what you are going to do, and what they need to do. This makes them deflate like balloons and brings them very quickly into mutually resolving the issue with you, and away from being in conflict with you. It helps them to see that you are not their problem - you are their source of solving the problem.

So in this case I would say something along the lines of 'I can see you are very angry about this. What I'm going to do is call an advisor now, and get them to come and see you about it.  You need to sit in the waiting area and after the call, I can let you know what time they will be here." With a nice normal smile and a gesture towards the seating. If they don't move and start up again say '" I'm going to help you by calling the advisor. I can't do that while you are talking to me at the same time. Please wait in the seating area and I'll be with you again in a few minutes'. Smile, gesture.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2014, 05:22:03 AM by English1 »

pierrotlunaire0

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #40 on: February 13, 2014, 10:08:05 AM »
I am often the one called when a customer is upset/angry/whatever.  "Hi, I am Pierrot.  Tell me what happened and I will figure out who is best to address your concerns." 

As they talk, I might interject with small clarifying questions: "I'm sorry to interrupt, but I want to make certain I am understanding.  The instructor originally said A, but not they are saying B?"  This helps in that it proves that you are listening, and it also helps them calm down in that they have to stop and clarify their words, and that is calming.

Once they are done, you summarize: "What I heard you say is."  Once the two of you agree, then: "Okay, I think the correct person for you to see is Dean Bean.  Let me call her.  Why don't you have a seat while I call?"

Now, if the person still wants to ramp it up, I have said, "Please, I am trying to help you.  You have to give me a chance to do what I can."

I don't say calm down, but I do redirect them into behaviors that will help them calm down.  If there is a wait for Dean Bean, I will inform them: "She will be a few minutes.  I will keep you informed."  And I do.
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bopper

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #41 on: February 13, 2014, 10:16:29 AM »
I agree...saying calm down never ever makes me want to calm down.

How about "Take a deep breath"...also (as I am sure you do) sound like you care about this and not a flat "I will get someone for you" but a concerned "Oh that must be frustrating! Let me get Mrs.. SoandSo, she is the one that can help you with this."

Lynn2000

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #42 on: February 13, 2014, 10:34:20 AM »
I've mentioned this here before, about my friend/former co-worker Emma, who was in over her head at work and consequently very stressed about it. I had been assigned to help her with her project and we would sit in the conference room working, and she would get so stressed out that she would start sobbing, and telling me all the bad things in her life at the same time (sobbing so hard I couldn't understand her sometimes). (Which I understand is a bigger reaction than in the OP.)

Pretty early on I decided that I was just going to sit there quietly and wait for her to calm down on her own. I didn't actually do anything else (like read a magazine) but I thought about my grocery list and what was on TV that night and so forth. In other words I distanced myself from the situation and didn't take her distress on myself. Then when she had calmed down I jumped right back in to what we'd been talking about before. "Okay, so, I had suggested increasing the font size on these slides..."

I didn't want to escalate the situation, of course, but it also wasn't my job to be her counselor, and I found it unprofessional that she ended up crying at work so often, rather than exploring other coping mechanisms or doing other concrete things to help herself in life. So I just waited her out. I'm not a huggy, soothing kind of person, I'm afraid.  :-\ It's a little different because it was just the two of us in a room and I didn't have to worry about what third parties might see.

I think the OP said this doesn't happen often, but it might be worth mentioning it to a boss and asking about any available training or policies. In some ways it's etiquette, but it other ways it's business policy--for example, if the OP has confidential material she needs to secure before leaving her desk or due to security concerns she can't leave a student attended in a room, that limits her options. Or maybe there are phrases or actions she needs to avoid using, for business liability reasons.
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jaxsue

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #43 on: February 13, 2014, 12:25:02 PM »
I'd say, very calmly, "You can either calm down and stop disrupting this office, or you can leave until you are able to deal with the situation calmly.  Those are your only options at this point, and if you cannot choose one for yourself, I will have campus security assist you with making your decision."

I would only do that if your supervisor has your back because if the student complains it could go very badly if the OP . Honestly if I was upset that response would make it so much worse.

ITA.

Alli8098

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Re: "I don't want to calm down!"
« Reply #44 on: February 13, 2014, 01:23:02 PM »
  I would avoid saying the "c word"* , its often not soothing.  Unfortunately I don't have much beyond that.

*Calm down

I admit when my husband has told me to calm down when I'm upset that will usually set me off.  I don't know why, but it does and poor DH deals with it.  I too though have been guilty of saying calm down to others.  Which I realize if I don't want it said to me I shouldn't say it to anyone else.  Sometimes verbal habits are hard to break and takes practice.   In all of my years doing customer service and small stints working as a receptionist you always must be assertive.  When I've had someone who is very upset and won't calm down I look them right in the eye and politely say "I understand you're upset, I'm doing everything I'm able to to help you.  Please wait and I will contact the person who can best help you with your situation."  I then pick up that phone ASAP and that usually cues them to be silent, sit down, step away what have you while I try to contact the appropriate person.  This way I'm not being rude and letting them know I understand how their feeling and that I am in fact trying to help them.  This will usually in itself get them to tone it down a bit.  Sometimes when people realize that you are NOT the one who can fix the issue the dramatics die down.

Unfortunately though you will have the "drama queens/kings" that come your way.  In all cases remain polite and assertive, don't let them drag you into the middle.