Stay calm. Remain cool. Keep composed. It’s easy for people to say this is how you should react when you’re feeling angry, frustrated or disrespected at work. In theory, many of us would agree. The problem is that we don’t know how to actually do it.
For most of us, our first “normal” reaction to experiencing negative emotions is often reactive. Our anger comes seemingly automatically because our brains are interpreting what caused our negative feelings as a “threat.” Gone are the days when our biggest fear was being eaten by a lion or a tiger; in the modern world, our jungle is the workplace and some of the biggest threats we perceive are threats to our ego. Our threat detection signals go off when we feel someone is questioning our intelligence, expertise, credibility, worthiness or respect, and our anger can spiral out of control.
But the next time you notice you’re feeling angry, simply hit “pause.” You want to slow down your brain’s threat detection so that you’ll have the ability to make a deliberate decision to override anger and choose calm instead. This might sound complex, but it’s actually simple. Here are seven techniques for hitting pause when you’re feeling angry.
In the heat of the moment, hit pause.
You notice you are getting angrier, and you can’t seem to stop it.Instead of trying to use rational thoughts, do something physical that will hit pause on acting out the negative emotion. Take a breath.Take a sip of water. Take your pen and write a note. Touch your tongue to the back of your teeth. Go to the bathroom. Do whatever you need to do in order to create a pause between your strong emotion and your response. Even a two-second pause can be enough to stop you from reacting with anger.
Know the reward you will get for staying calm.
What are the benefits for you if you stay calm? Could you possibly see a promotion in your future if you could stay composed? Could you make an extra sale? Having a strong goal in your mind helps you to stay focused on your long-term desires instead of letting your short-term desires win in the heat of the moment.
Make the choice that you want to stay calm.
During intense situations, many leaders make the choice to allow the desire to “win” or “prove that I’m right” or “get back at” another person take over. If you want to stay composed, keep your intention to stay calm even when the desire to fight is strong and wants to take over. At the moment you feel the emotion taking over, remind yourself that you want to — and choose to — stay calm. Repeating these words over and over to yourself can keep your mind busy and your mouth closed until the urge has passed.
Believe you can make the choice to stay calm.
I’ve seen countless leaders quit trying to stay in control when strong emotions hit simply because they believe they don’t have any control — they believe that strong emotions can’t be stopped. “That’s just who I am” is a fixed mindset that doesn’t allow space for you to grow as a person or a leader. This (incorrect) belief stops you from being powerful in the situation.
Keep a visual reminder of your intention.
It’s difficult for your brain to remember all of your best intentions, from eating healthy to being kind to remembering a birthday. A visual reminder that you see regularly can help you to keep your commitment to staying calm top of mind. A simple way to do this is to keep a sticky note with a written intention such as “stay composed” on your notebook or your laptop. The more visible your reminder is and the more often you see it, the more likely your mind will be ready when the moment comes.
Stop using your emotions as power.
Some leaders love to use their strong emotions to exert power over others, such as yelling angrily in a meeting to “show who’s boss.” This tactic may work in the short term, but in the long term, your team cannot work successfully under fearful conditions. At some point, the team members may suffer from burnout, quit or — perhaps the worst possibility — stay but perform poorly. It’s important for leaders and peers to show their power through methods that aren’t about displaying extreme emotions; instead, focus on showcasing your competence and capabilities.
Stop quitting when this practice gets hard.
When you first begin to practice these methods, it will feel hard and awkward. That’s good! Those are signs that your brain is trying something new and that you are re-wiring your brain. Over time, when you continue practicing these methods, they will become your new habit and it won’t feel like so much work or effort. This will take a genuine effort and commitment from your end to make this change happen.
Because of the new demands on leaders in the 21st century, leaders who are not able to stay cool and calm under pressure may start to see their career stalling out since they aren’t able to keep employees engaged, psychologically safe, innovative or happy. But following all of these methods will help you to achieve your goals and be able to switch from angry to calm within seconds.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com