The 3-Minute Exercise That'll De-Escalate Any Stressful Situation

Here's how to not let stress get the best of you.

Girl at gym Dean Drobot | Canva 

When things go south at work, sulking about it, avoiding the situation, or adding to the office drama will only give you a bad reputation. That's why you must learn how to deal with workplace stresses and awkward situations professionally. If you want to build your conflict resolution skills and learn how to take negative feedback more positively, this 3-minute exercise can help. ​Here's how this exercise can help you deal with stressful situations at work like a pro.


The 3-minute exercise that'll de-escalate any stressful situation:

1. Start small

The reason this exercise lasts only three minutes is because starting small offers you the best path to success. So pick one thing you want to focus on and do that for up to three minutes — no more. Here's an example: Let's say you want to talk to your boss about why she feels upset with your performance. Too soon. This conversation is too important to dive into without a little practice and prep work.

So instead, start small and find a colleague who makes you feel stupid or who you find challenging to work with. Next, take three minutes and write down what you would like to say to them if you could say whatever you want. That's it. You're done for the day.




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2. Keep training

The next day during your three-minute exercise, keep refining your words. Take up to the allotted three minutes, and write out an even better way to say what you want to say. That's it. You're done. 

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3. Take a step

When you're ready — whether it's only been two days since you started this exercise or a full week — plan to have a short meeting with your annoying co-worker and use this as a practice run for talking to your boss. Say what you think is your best sentence or two. Remember: Keep it under three minutes.

4. Ask for feedback

Let your coworker know you are open to hearing his or her feedback, and take it in without judgment. This is when you are about to learn the power of self-discipline. The only response that works after receiving feedback is "Thank you." Don't defend, explain, or justify. Just say "Thank you."



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5. Take another step

Find another stressful work situation, and keep practicing. Write out your thoughts until you get them right. Then say it directly to your coworker, and get their feedback. Keep repeating this process until you feel ready to talk with your boss. You will notice the difference. Your ability to listen, accept feedback, and ask for help will have heightened after a few practice rounds. As a result, your response to this difficult conversation with your boss will be strong, mature, and positive. And the best part is it only takes three minutes!

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Dr. Sylvia Lafair, Ph.D., is a CEO and is an accomplished change management expert and executive coach with over 35 years of experience.