There is nothing more infuriating than being told to ‘calm down’.
Whether it’s at home or in the office, such a comment can instantly cause you to lose your composure. Indeed, that’s why people say those two little words: to provoke a response, to patronise, to attempt to show who is in charge of the conversation.
And that’s why men have been uttering such words forever. They provide [a very weak] means to assert their authority, often in the face of knowing they’ve lost control.
There are plenty of ways we’re told to ‘calm down’: by being informed we’re ‘overreacting’, that we’re taking something ‘too personally’ or ‘getting emotional’.
All these expressions are uttered to imply the individual on the receiving end is hysterical, unaware of their personal behaviour, and bordering on a state of madness. They’re words that should never, ever, be used at work.
But just like Opposition leader Tony Abbott told a female journalist to “calm down” during a press conference on Tuesday, they’re words that have always and will always continue to be used. The journalist on the receiving end, The Guardian’s Bridie Jabour, offered a brilliant response: she shook her head, laughed and tweeted about it. She knows the comment will do more damage to Abbott than it could ever do to her.
So what else can you do in such a situation? I personally believe you fire up, do anything but ‘calm down’. But that won’t work for everyone, so I’ve listed a few more sensible strategies and responses below:
- Don’t respond. Offer a patronising stare right back at them. They’ll then be forced to ‘calm down’, think about what they said, and find a way to continue the conversation.
- Tell them, ‘I’ll calm down when you smarten up/answer the question/do your job.’
- Tell them, ‘If you think this is me fired up, I suggest you don’t stick around to see my ‘un calm’ response.’
- Ask them, ‘Why are you telling me to calm down, do you feel like you’re losing control?’
- Tell them, ‘We’re all adults here. Can you please attempt a better response than telling me to ‘calm down?’
- Breath in, count to ten, repeat what you said before they told you ‘calm down’.
- Ask them, ‘Do you find me difficult to deal with? There are courses you can do for better managing these conversations.’
- Tell them, ‘Although your derogatory remark is an attempt to make me feel otherwise, I’m perfectly calm.’
- Walk away. Demonstrate they’re not worth the effort.