OK Jack – Calm Down!

One of the issues with the main work I do is that everyone thinks they understand it.

I work as a trainer for a training organisation mainly delivering a 3 day training and derivations of that theme. A core part of this training is the concept of Low Arousal Approaches.

Low arousal is a concept that my mother mentioned when we were growing up – it is not a new thing but is certainly confused in its understanding. When I first came across this concept in a training course I immediatly thought I understood it too.


It turns out I was wrong, as are most people on this subject. And you can argue that this is the reason people like me are long term employed to deliver the same message again and again. This is a simple message that seems very misunderstood by people who will tell you again and again during the the introductions they understand what the course is about and will try to stay awake.

This is ALWAYS far from reality. A number of years ago a colleague told me I had taught well over 10,000 people face to face. That number has increased but I have no way of being accurate. I also teach less face to face now as my responsibilities have shifted.

Most of the people I taught really enjoyed the teaching – I have fewer than 6 people who really did not agree with my methods of presenting and one half of a course where I did the third day (after another trainer) to get the course back on side – half loved me and half hated me, altogether an odd response.

Underpinning all of this is the knowledge that every time I start a course people tell me they know all about it and when the course is over they are overwhelmingly surprised by the course content.

So an example I hear you ask? – well a quick one is the simple language pattern “Calm Down!”.

In our daily family life we know that when we are annoyed or angry another person telling us to calm down is not going to make us calm. If our arousal has reached a triggering phrase we will probably reach tipping point and shout back “I AM CALM!!” This is of course untrue.

If you work on the assumption that the individual who said “Calm Down!” was not trying to trigger their loved one to become more upset then the use of the phrase must come form a lack of understanding of the fundamental interactions around low arousal approaches. How many times do you hear staff during high stress interactions saying things like “OK Johnny – Calm Down!”

Or if a person does understand this and is not trying to trigger the incident but still persists in using phrases like “Calm Down!” we can then assume they have less control over their own emotional state when under pressure. This is something which we can improve upon during training and experience of conflict or upset.

While I may get feedback on this post I have a lot of experience in this field and have many examples and stories to aid understanding. Some of this I will add over time if you want me too.

The measure of a person is their ability to control their emotional state. This is something most find difficult and that is another post.