How to Manage Other People’s Frantic Energy

This past week found me traveling by airplane, an experience of technological wonder.

And, inarguably, a bit of an energetic mess.

kids on plane

The airport itself is no better, and the security line on the day of my departing flight was especially frantic.

Picture, if you will, the following scene all around me…

…wild-eyed people ripping metal off their bodies and tech from their carry-ons in record time…

…the sound of plastic bins slamming down ahead of me as hands jolted them forward on the belt…

…those behind me pressing in close, their liquids in their hands, their sneakers off…waiting

And me? I still had a whole lot of stuff to get into those bins.

Exhibit A…(pic taken later as proof)

my stuff

How did I handle all of this frantic energy? Not well.

  • I proceeded to – very irritably – sigh, shake my head and press back at those pressing forward
  • When I was finally done I got on the coffee line, where I anxiously struggled to pry my credit card from my tight wallet pocket, elbowing the people behind me
  • I then clumsily maneuvered my way around the massive crowd at my gate, tripping over toes and glaring at anyone who got in my way

When I finally got on the plane I was completely agitated. I couldn’t seem to kick the energy that I’d allowed myself to pick up and – even worse – give off to others.

The guy next to me? Extremely calm. He smiled at me. He nodded. He slowly read his magazine. I was enchanted.

Knowing there was a lesson here, I introduced myself to this Super Calm Guy (or “SCG” as we’ll call him from here) and began this dialogue:

  • Deirdre: “Wow, you are SO calm after all of that crazy energy from those lines and people.”
  • SCG [shrugging pleasantly]: “Yeah, I guess I am.”
  • Deirdre: “Do you mind me asking how the heck you did that?”
  • SCG [shrugging pleasantly]: “Well, I travel a lot so I’m used to it.”

I shook my head, knowing there had to be more. After all, I travel a lot, too. And I work on this energy stuff. All the time.

After calmly and pleasantly thinking it over, SCG arrived at a few ways he manages the frenzied energy of others.

It was a simple yet incredibly useful list. And it turns out it can actually be used anywhere. With anybody’s energy. At any time.

Which is why I now present…

Super Calm Guy’s Three Tips for Staying Super Calm

#1: Prepare for Calmness

The best way to come out of a situation with calm? Go in with calm. And a plan to keep it.

Preparation is about doing what you need to do to enter a situation – whether a flight, a job interview or a family gathering – with your best, most centered foot forward. This could include anything from sleeping in to working out to eating lots of protein beforehand. And it almost always means giving yourself plenty of extra time to get to wherever you’re going.

It also means knowing that, even when you start at your best, there will be potential frenzy triggers…which means you need to think ahead to what those triggers might be and what you’ll do and say to yourself to keep calm when they happen.

#2: Don’t Make Assumptions

During the entire morning debacle I assumed that every extra second I took was annoying the heck out of the people behind me, which only made things escalate. Though irritable, I did apologize dozens of times and – without exception – they all smiled and said it was fine.

Of course, those smiles didn’t mean I should be disrespectful of others’ time. Nor did it mean I didn’t actually irritate them. But as long as I was doing my best it wasn’t for me to worry about the rest of it.

#3: Embrace Tunnel Vision

Sometimes the best thing to do when those around you are displaying frantic or negative energy is to get razor focused on something else. Anything else.

Put on your imaginary blinders, breathe slowly and turn your head away. Look down at your shoes, up at the clock, or at whatever your limbs are doing to complete your task. Drown them out.

Finish what you need to finish, then remove yourself from the situation, even if for a minute. (I’ll say it again: excusing yourself to go to the bathroom is an awesome “get away and get yourself together” tool.)

Do these tips work? Sure do!

I can say this because I practiced them during the frenzy of my return flight the very next day. And my frantic energy was nowhere to be found.

Even when dealing with all of this all over again…

my stuff


Usually I end my posts by encouraging use of the lessons in the week ahead (which you still might want to do of course)

On this one I realized there’s a great opportunity for us all to help each other out.

Got a favorite SCG tip of your own? Let us know it. Please. We need it.

Thanks in advance. And here’s to calmer days ahead…

Now, go do good…and do it well.



8 responses to “How to Manage Other People’s Frantic Energy”

  1. Patty Costa Avatar
    Patty Costa

    Thank you Deirdre for such timely insite at this time of year – and all year! I like the idea of going into it “calm” Sometimes it is hard to stay there but it’s a good frame of reference. Detachment is the key for me. Easier said than done but at least if I’m aware I can try to get back there. I like the bathroom technique. I have been in situations where someone goes on talking non-stop and drains me. Bathroom here I come!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Patty. Going in calm is definitely the way to get started…though for some reason we don’t always think about it as we’re speeding anxiously through traffic on our way to that next meeting!

  2. Chris Johnson Avatar
    Chris Johnson

    Great tips. I find that one of the best ways to tune people out while traveling is by listening to music in my headphones. I select music that is calming for me and when I approach security, I feel centered. I can’t control other people, only myself.

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      I LOVE this, Chris! Music – especially the calming kind – is a great way to distract and also stay centered. I’m going to give this one a try in all kinds of situations…

  3. Shannon Michelsen Avatar
    Shannon Michelsen

    Deirdre – AS ALWAYS this post was directly aligned with challenges I’m facing RIGHT NOW! The #1 thing I have to remember is that, another person’s ‘frenzy’ is not necessarily MY fire to put out. I feel like I am a sponge to energy, negative or positive, and when someone around me is exuding negativity (frenziness) I feel a responsibility to ‘fix it’. As long as I remember that this is NOT my job to necessarily fix the problem for them, I stay calm every time!

    Happy Holidays and I hope all is well in sunny San Diego!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      So great to hear from you Shannen…and thanks for your great comment! It really does feel like that first big step of just being aware that you’re taking on others’ frenzy (and making it your own) is such an important piece to this puzzle!

  4. Vasi Huntalas Avatar
    Vasi Huntalas

    Wonderful post & tips Deirdre! I love how your curiosity turned around this situation we’ve all faced at some time. I’m a big fan of the big, deep belly breaths… I often don’t realize how much irritation & stress I store in my body & this helps me let go of it. Then the edge is gone & I return to the chaos feeling lighter.

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      Thanks Vasi…and it’s so true about what can happen when you take a few simple breaths. I find that paying attention to my shoulders – and how high they are shrugged up against my head – are a sure signal as to my current level of stored, stressed out energy. Great reminder!