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In a group-project meeting yesterday, one of my group members repeatedly denigrated the perspective my research had taken. The project is a book report for Tuesday night, and I was researching the critical reception of the book, and did not find evidence to support the story she wanted to tell. She said several times throughout he meeting that the critical reception wasn't really that important so I didn't need to go into it, and that the professor wouldn't want to hear about some scholarly academic kind of reception. (I had looked extensively for public response as well.) She was aware of my research psychology background, but I think she still expected me to agree with her. (She did a lot of other project-detrimental things, but those are the most relevant to this.)

I want to be calm and mature when someone is doing something that maddening - tells me my contribution is mistaken, then unimportant, then repeatedly portrays scholarship as marginal and irrelevant - but I find it very hard right in the moment because I get so physically riled up. I'm too angry to plan a mature response, and I alternate between clamming up, acting passive-aggressive, and trying to get the discussion back on track. The problem seems to be my physiological response more than anything - I'm angry and shaking and I know if I push what I'm capable of I'll lose my temper, yell at her, and then be blamed for the entire situation.

How do you deal with this? I looked up some anger management stuff, but it seems to be directed at people who are not in situations that require immediate responses. I think if I weren't having an intense physiological response, I would be able to communicate with her calmly, and set clear enough boundaries that she didn't keep stepping over them.

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Hey resonance,

Staying in the present moment without getting overwhelmed by physiological or emotional responses seems to be a lifetime of work for me.

The initial 'overwhelm' response of anger is a sympathetic nervous system response. In your case, it sounds like you're getting the 'fight' of the fight/flight/freeze/faint. But the rush of adrenaline you're getting causes your higher thinking skills to retreat in favor of being physically amped up.

I know this sounds trite, but have you tried deep, diaphragm breathing where you push your belly out as you breathe out, and pull your belly button into your spine as you breathe in? This kind of breathing 'massages' the adrenal glands on top of the kidneys and helps the parasympathetic nervous system kick in.

Another thing that might help is a trick from cognitive behavioral therapy wherein everything one does is prefaced with self talk about how it's a choice... "I'm choosing to put peanut butter on my toast" all the way to "I'm choosing to get angry at this person". Then if you want to practice some self-analysis, you can start asking "why?" (focused on your internal state rather than an external cause... I feel attacked vs. She's a dumb bimbo who doesn't understand research) until you get to a core issue response. For example:

I'm choosing to feel angry at this woman.


Because I'm choosing feel like my work is being discounted


Because I chose to put a lot of time and effort into finding sources I think are acceptable.


Because I like to do a good job.


etc etc etc

The goal with this exercise is to get to a place where you understand the core issue that you're feeling attacked, shamed, etc about and recognize it in that way. The next steps with this kind of exercise entail divorcing thinking from feeling (feelings aren't facts, they're just energy) and noticing the energy and the automatic (negative) thoughts it generates (She's stupid. I know more than her. That research was a waste of my time if I can't get it into the group project. She's stupid. I can't believe I don't have a snappy comeback to get her to shut up and see it my way. I must be pretty dumb because I can't think of anything to say. I'm useless at defending myself because I just get so angry that I can't think of anything to say... etc etc whatever is true for you).

You can also practice witty responses to stupid people when you're not actually in them. Our brains have a hard time telling real experience from intensely imagined experiences, which is why so many athletes use visualization as a tool to help improve their performance. So think of a situation that pisses you off at, say, a 3 (on a scale of 0 to 10 with 10 being high). And practice calming yourself in that situation and visualize what you might say to the other person using all of your highest brain functions. Then calm yourself until you're back at a 0 or 1 or 2. Keep imagining situations where you respond how you would like, even as the intensity of the situation increases. My tdoc suggests that if you do this kind of a methodical process over about seven different sessions, you will have reinforced the neural pathways that you prefer over the ones you don't like so much.

Sounds a little bossy and like advice giving. Take what's helpful (if anything) and flush the rest.



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Oh good. I'm glad that seems useful. Now the actual cost of my therapy last week gets divided in half because someone else is getting use out of it too... ;)

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This is a little late, and I certainly can't improve upon the excellent advice from Wooster, but I've been thinking about this and general strategies for dealing with conflict in a group on the skids. I'd like to exploit this angle:

You can also practice witty responses to stupid people when you're not actually in them.

It helps to have a formula or two at hand to order your thoughts in the heat of the moment. Even if you haven't mastered the self-calming techniques, you can speak while trying not to be angry if you have a structure to train your comments. I think in terms of scripts, so here they are:

1. "The Salesman - Feel, Felt, Found"

This is the classic sales approach for dealing with objections. First, summarize the person's/harpy's

argument. Next, show yourself having once taken that point of view. Last, explain how your view has


Example: "OK, you feel that discussing how the book was received takes us away from presenting the

group's own analysis of it. At the start, I felt that a review of the responses could steer the discussion

toward inconsequential academic debate. But, the more I looked, I found that a survey of critical

opinion lent our review some weight and grounded our presentation."

2. "Supporting Role"

Have key conciliatory words in mind to explain how your work will support the other person's. Support, dove-tail, bolster, compliment, balance, augment, provide a springboard for, platform.

Example: "I think providing hard data compliments your approach and springboards talk about overall evaluations."

3. "The Pinocchio"


Example: "You know, this professor once bemoaned a general lack of perspective on the critical reception of books. He/she basically requested this."

Example with humor: "While I was arm-wrestling this professor last night, he/she bemoaned a lack of perspective on the critical reception of books. I just made that up, but it just goes to show you

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