How We Keep Our Cool

September 15, 2009 at 7:47 pm 4 comments

News from the U.S. Capitol to the MTV awards to the US Open Tennis Semi Finals this week has been all about people losing their cool and dissing each other – Joe Wilson screaming out “You Lie!” to President Obama; Kanye West taking the mic from Taylor Swift and saying Beyonce deserved Taylor’s award; and Serena Williams – the awesome Serena- goin’ off on the linewoman.  Ouch!

Across the world, teens and kids are watching Americans forget to respect if they’re mad or disagree.  And the media will profit handily by showing these scenes repeatedly.

I’m not making excuses for any of the people I mentioned above. However, “there but for the grace of God go I,” because I’m just as capable – and at times responsible- for losing my cool.  I think we all are just as capable, if not always in such visible or powerful positions.

“Stroke-triumphant” survivor and neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor tells us that we humans have nearly 100% of our DNA in common, and only .1% difference in DNA from one another, but we tend to focus on our differences instead of those commonalities.  (See: Part 1 video on Oprah:; and .)   We could be celebrating 99.9% of our time, but we explode or belittle others over disagreements. We lose our cool.

Here are some ideas for all of us – adults, teens, and children – to practice keeping our cool.

First – Set our intention. Because we are humans, wired with all kinds of emotions, drive, and motivations, it’s necessary for us to set an intention about how we want to be in our interactions.

Second- Practice the skills of calming down when we’re angry, feel mistreated, misunderstood, or ripped off. – This means choosing whatever helps us calm down that fits within the category of respecting ourselves and respecting others. Could mean walking away, counting to 10, definitely means taking a couple of deep breaths;  might mean – if we’re highly charged with intense energy- to literally turn our bodies away from the people that we’re angry with, so we can take charge of that energy and direct it in a healthy way.  Noticing our muscles and where we’re tense. Having some calming phrase or words ready to say to ourselves at intense moments, like “Just take it easy, it’s not the end of the world, ” or “Remember your intention,” etc.  Preventatively, and after the fact, exercise and regular physical activity can produce positive biochemicals while ridding the body of stressful and toxic biochemicals.

Third – Honor the compassion inside, and cultivate it. Recognize the gift and power of that compassion in you.  When you do so, it becomes more central to your way of being and self-expression in the world.  Compassion is sometimes a simple act, and sometimes a monumental one. There’s a method of communication called Nonviolent Communication – developed by Marshall Rosenberg, PhD. NVC is all about doing our best to commit to communication that aims to respect and recognize the other person’s perspective and experience equal to our own without blame.  No blame. Period.  Responsibility, respect, compassion, and nonjudgment.

Ask the girls in circle or guys in council what they do to keep their cool.  They might add to this list with their own unique strategies.  What do you do?

Take care, and Keep it cool!

~Beth Hossfeld
Associate Director


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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Doreen  |  September 15, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    What a great reminder. Thanks Beth

    • 2. Beth  |  September 22, 2009 at 1:09 am

      I think you’re a major leader on staying cool, Doreen! Can I channel you? Thanks!

  • 3. Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth  |  September 15, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    Great post, Beth; I’m right there w/ya on the human foible front. Will add this link to my piece on civility/re: the ‘stolen moments’ of Taylor, Obama, and Kim etc. here:

    • 4. Beth  |  September 22, 2009 at 1:20 am

      Thanks, Amy! So good to see Shaping Youth site – hope to influence in a healthy way the messages we make, encounter, and influence.


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