As a New York resident, I've had several interactions with people that have rubbed me the wrong way. For instance, getting smushed on a crowded subway car at 8am, dealing with someone that slides right into the seat you were eying, oh and the person that believes they can fit on the train even when the doors can't close, and the conductor is saying loudly "there's another train right behind this one!" (Preaching to New Yorkers right now).
How many times have you heard someone yell, "just wait for the next train!"? Perhaps you were that person.
Oh, and don't forget about noisy neighbors. If you've dealt with living next to neighbors that inconsiderately blast their music, and if you're not the type to suffer in silence, then you've probably had the experience of knocking on your neighbors door and telling them to turn down their music. These interactions typically end with both parties being upset, and the issue unresolved.
Those experiences caused me to reflect on how I react. I asked myself, how can I better my responses to help defuse frustrating situations?
The way you approach issues can drastically change the way people react to you and as a result, how you feel.
Most people don't wake up with the intent to start a fight with their neighbor.
After pondering and implementing these techniques into my own life, I came up with 3 steps for diffusing tense situations:
1. Calm Down
Most people hate being told to calm down. Therefore, don't wait for someone to tell you. Calm yourself down. When it comes to unpleasant circumstances, don't respond immediately because your initial response probably isn't going to be a nice one. Yes, the guy pushing you on the train is annoying, but take a second to pause and put yourself in his shoes. I'm sure he doesn't want to be pushing you, but perhaps he has a cut throat job and it's imperative for him to get to work on time. Try practicing the art of being a less judgmental person.
Instead of reacting by saying something to the effect of:
"Get off the train! You're making us late! There's no room!"
Try something like this:
"Sir I understand that you probably have somewhere important to go, but there's no more room on this train. "
Isn't that better? I know it's easier said than done, but the latter response will reduce your blood pressure and allow you to avoid negative interactions with people you don't know.
2. Watch What You Say and How You Say it
This piggybacks off my last point. Now imagine having to deal with noisy neighbors. Let's say you angrily march over to their apartment, bang on their door, and proceed to say in a frustrated voice:
"Can you turn down your music!?!"
How do you think they're going to react? Even if they know they're in the wrong, your tone and demeanor ooze pissed off, which causes them to put their guard up.
Bear in mind, your loud neighbors are probably thinking something along the lines of:
"I'm paying [enter ridiculous New York rent amount here] I should be able to blast my music as loud as I want."
A more effective way to approach the situation is to first apply step 1 calm down before you go to their apartment. When you decide it's time to confront them about the problem, you could say something along the lines of:
"Hey, sorry for banging on your door, but your music is really loud. I understand that you live here and pay rent, but please be considerate of the fact that you have neighbors. Can you please turn it down?"
Having a nice tone will usually lead to a better outcome.
3. Don't Mirror
Mirroring is simply reflecting the same attitude as the person to whom you're speaking. Typically if someone approaches you with a negative tone, your first instinct is to give it right back, i.e mirror. The key to defusing a situation is to keep yourself and the other person calm by not mirroring their negative attitude. If one person is yelling, and the other person matches their negative tone and begins yelling as well, then it's a disaster for everyone. At the end of the day, life is about treating others how you would want to be treated.