From time to time we all end up in situations where someone else wants us rattled. Whether we are competing, conflicting or negotiating, sooner or later someone will want to shake us up.
The first question to ask yourself is:
How strong is my outcome here?
Sometimes people get rattled because they have been taking a strong stand for a goal that they hold much less strongly. If you're not sure what you want, it's easy to be thrown off your game. The answer is not to manage conflict or to generate strategies for keeping cool. The answer in this case is to discover an outcome that is so strong you are willing to keep cool to get it.
Is your outcome worth keeping your cool?
In a perfect world, when I want something I want it enough to stay focused through distraction. No one in a perfect world would want to rattle me, but even if they did, I would be so intent on following through to get a result, I would probably not even notice any attempt to push my buttons or throw me off my game. Sadly, I do not live in a perfect world and you probably don't either.
If you have a strong outcome and it's important that you keep your cool to achieve it, then try this: act as if. Act as if you were cool. Act as if you were so focused that you don't even notice the attempts to rattle you. Act as if you were someone who took the high road. Act as if your achievement were inevitable.
Acting as if means changing your voice, gestures, expressions, behaviours and language to match those that you would use if you were really immune to being rattled. Listen to your breathing and voice, and let them be relaxed and clear. Drop your shoulders and sit or stand tall. Make a list of the actions you would take if you were sure you could keep your cool and keep the list where you can see it so that you stick to the script. Change the voice in your head so that it comments on your progress towards your outcome and not the thousand and one reasons to give up or blow up.
Can somebody else make you mad or hurt you or make you crazy? Of course they can. While the theory is that we are all in control of our own reactions, we react first and then try to impose control. While we have lots of choice about what happens next, we do not have to feel like we have failed every time someone else turns up the heat.
But if you'd like to keep your cool, plan to keep your cool. In the summer, you don't hope that you can out-think the temperature: you get air-conditioning, buy fans or shades, and wear lightweight clothing. You plan to be cool. You can do that in the rest of your life too.
Here's the basic plan:
1) Be clear about what you want
2) Act as if you were inevitably making progress towards your goal
3) Correct your course as necessary; if you begin to lose it, go back to acting as if
It's okay to be a normal human being with normal human reactions. Other people do have the power to make you uncomfortable. They just can't make you stay there.