Crying in Public Happens (But Here’s How to Avoid It)
4 tips for reeling it in
It happens to the best of us. You’re staring down your boss during a surprisingly harsh review. Or shooting daggers at your significant other while the waiter rattles off the specials. Whether it’s out of frustration, stress or straight-up emotional overload, tears happen. And once you start, good God it feels like it’ll never stop. Thankfully, we found some tips to stem the tide.
Stick to the Facts
The best way to avoid sobbing in inappropriate situations “is to not let yourself get to that point in the first place,” according to stress-management expert Paula Davis-Laack. When you feel the lump in your throat traveling eye-ward, use concrete terms to voice your concerns and stay objective. (“I understand you’re unhappy about what my mother said...”) Steer clear of exaggeration and blame. (“How dare you criticize my mother? Yours is no prize either, by the way!”)
Put the waterworks on pause. A few tricks for doing so: Contemplate the color of the walls in your boss’s office. (You might actually want to silently repeat to yourself “white walls” over and over.) Or go over a math problem in your head. Or read a magazine or watch a funny cat video. Just distract yourself long enough until you're able to haul ass to the ladies' room and properly cry it out.
One blogger, Joanna Goddard, swears by pinching the webbed skin between your thumb and pointer fingers (because the slight physical pain temporarily trumps the emotional). Another, Melissa Dahl, simply tilts her head up to avoid letting the salty puddles leak out. Taking a step back from the person you’re confronting while maintaining a neutral face may also help. And if you can get away from the stressful situation, take a walk. This may empower you with a sense of purpose, since feelings of helplessness are at the root of most crying jags.
Sometimes the fastest way to recover is to let go and let 'em flow. Several experts even suggest alerting the other person to potential tearfulness so that they’re more inclined to be sympathetic--as opposed to, say, viewing your outburst as weak or manipulative. Best of all? Warning someone that you may lose it (it’s called “pre-cuing”) often prevents the tears from falling in the first place.