10 Tips to deal with someone overwhelmed with emotion

  1. Stay calm


Do not get sucked into the vortex! Remain friendly and calm, maintain a reassuring tone of voice and body language.


  1. Be empathetic


Show compassion by the use of empathy for what you are observing, attention to their experience, and respect for their distress.


  1. Focus on the future


Do not get stuck on past problems that will reinforce the emotion and the negativity that accompanies it. Acknowledge that the past was difficult, and focus on what can be done to promote a better future.


  1. Do not focus on feelings


In this situation, emotions are hard to manage, so move away from these and focus on tasks. Do not ask HOW they feel, but WHAT they want to achieve and what this would look like in the future.


  1. Do not try to change them


Be careful to avoid suggesting the key to behavioural change that you see as likely to lead to improvement. This may lead straight back to past events, and trigger more emotional response. This may be interpreted as judgmental and could irreparably damage your working relationship.


  1. Focus on choices now


Encourage consideration of what is ahead rather than defending what has gone on in the past. What are their options, choices or alternatives NOW?


This will empower them and be respectful of their decision-making power.


  1. Engage where possible in gentle reality testing


Discuss what might be pragmatic and achievable in the future. They cannot change the behavior of others, but they may be able to control the consequences, positive or negative, of their own behavior.


  1. Create a sense of us


Aim to build a team against the problem, directing attention towards what could be done next and how this will help.


  1. Refer for therapy


Therapy is required for conscious control of emotions.


  1. Engage in reflective practice


Ensure that you participate in peer support or supervision to deal with any residual trauma and work towards best practice.






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