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Communication skills 101: How to stay cool when things heat up


Cue card for communication skills regarding body language
Fifty-five per cent of the message the other party receives is based on facial expressions and body language.

Symbols, which can take many forms, can help someone stay grounded. For example, think of the movies about World War II where soldiers had a picture of their loved ones in their helmet. If a heated conversation is on the horizon, practice this psychological technique by having a symbol nearby to help give a particular situation perspective.


This technique helps someone keep their cool by stopping himself/herself before they get angry. For example, this author will say, “Stop Jan!” to herself when she is concerned she is about to get angry. In fact, she has even been known to say it aloud to the surprise of others around her. Another example this author’s colleague suggested was picturing a glass wall between themselves and the difficult person. Then, with a paint roller in hand, paint all of the glass until it is opaque and they could no longer see the person. They are not doing this literally, of course. It would only upset the other person more.

Remember to breath and laugh

Two good physical aspects to keeping one’s cool are breathing and laughing. Many people hold their breath when they are upset. It can be hard to remain calm, however, when there is no oxygen getting to the brain. Finally, laughing is one of the best ways to relieve stress. In fact, some say it is great exercise for the internal organs. Of course, do not laugh at someone who is upset… that will only escalate the situation. By practicing some of these techniques, it will become easier to co-exist with those who are more difficult.

Jan M. McLaughlin, CSP, is a speaker and trainer who offers programs for professionals who are looking to influence the positive responses they receive. She specializes in impression management, customer service, communication, and presentation skills, and presented on these topics at the 2016 International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo. McLaughlin can be reached via e-mail at For more info, visit

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