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Keeping a Blue Head When the Red Mist Descends


Man and woman shouting at each other

Last week there was an incident at work where we had a bit of a challenging student who pushed all the wrong buttons when speaking to one of our staff. This is a scenario that gets repeated regularly, if not daily, and it’s not always easy to maintain a cool head and be professional when dealing with someone who is being unreasonable or irrational.


I was reflecting on this and realised that while we each have our own ways of dealing with this, sometimes they aren’t enough… particularly if it comes in a pretty constant stream. I wanted to share a method (or the premise of a method) devised by a group called Gazing Performance Systems (GPS) in the UK, who specialise in optimising organisational and personal capability.


The experts at GPS talk about ‘red’ and ‘blue’ heads. The ‘red’ typically manifesting itself when one is tense, under pressure, emotional and therefore feeling ‘tight’ and unable to think clearly or rationally – often resulting in ‘in the heat of the moment’ reactions. ‘Blue’ is when one is calm, clear, in control and unflustered.


Red heads show up in different settings, but from a professional context (in my case), often when we are interacting with customers. Each person has different symptoms, physical or otherwise, that will play out. For me, my breathing gets shallow, my thoughts get jumbled, I tend to lean in and I hear my tone becoming a bit frenzied. Some people will get red faced, others cry, some get aggressive, while some switch off, get a distant look in the eye and stop listening.


When I’m in the ‘blue’, I hear my voice is controlled and measured, I’m able to articulate my thoughts and my body language, generally, will be open.


The challenge, is not only how to recognise the differences within ourselves, but also to know how to recognise when we are in the ‘red’ and what steps to take to move back to blue, where we can make rational, sound and sensible decisions and from a business perspective, not go crazy at a customer or in some way fuel their own ‘red’ head.


Some tools that work for me when I know I’m slipping (and it’s a work in progress to recognise this) are to take a few deep breaths and to physically take a step (or lean) back. I often look off into the distance to gather my thoughts so when I speak I’m not sounding ‘red’. Doesn’t always work, of course… particularly with my children.


I know that every day we each go through these same challenges, often with our customers, and while I am no expert in the area, I thought I would just share this concept as a trigger for controlling getting overcome by the ‘red’.


Here are 2 articles that help explain the concept a bit more:




If you want to learn a bit more about GPS, their site is: http://www.gazing.com/


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