I have scheduled a phone call with someone I have not spoken to in over two years. The only reason I am talking to them now is because it is very important to my family that I have a cordial, preferably friendly, relationship with this person (although this person is not related to me). I currently have very strong and very negative feelings about this person. My goal in talking with them is to understand what their attitude towards me is now, which will determine whether or not I try to rebuild the relationship. This is a personal relationship (as opposed to professional) and we are peers in terms of age, social status, cultural background, etc.
I am concerned because of what happened during a recent phone call with a different person, who I had similar emotions about. It was difficult for me to respond rationally and calmly in real time. (I already have trouble with serious discussions even when it's not a personal, emotional topic, because it takes me a while to process and decide what my position is and come up with the right wording for it.) I ended up losing my composure shortly into the conversation. I had been doing okay keeping emotion out of my voice despite growing more and more distressed, until they pushed the right button and it all came out.
I don't like being that sort of person. I also don't want them to think they have the upper hand, or for them to walk away saying they are the better person because I had an emotional response and they were ~just trying to talk~. (I mention this because my family has done this in the past to invalidate or ignore what I had to say.) I had enough self-control that I didn't say anything I regret, but I wish I had not been so emotional while saying it.
It's worth noting that anger is only one of these emotions - there is also fear, distrust, sadness, disgust. So while anger management techniques may be useful, I'd appreciate answers which take other negative emotions into consideration as well.
Things I tried:
- Rehearsing what I want to say - helped me remember to address my points, but I was still too emotional - even when rehearsing I'd get very upset imagining the conversation
- Playing through possible responses in my head - see above, didn't work; I was unable to predict new information they revealed and how they acted overall (I expect this to be even more of an issue with the upcoming call due to the time between when I last interacted with them)
- Ending the conversation - I hung up when I initially lost it, saying I clearly was unable to have a conversation about it, but they immediately called me back and insisted we couldn't keep not talking about the issue. I see their point; it's kind of a catch-22: I don't want to talk because I'm still too angry about it, but I'm still angry about it because we haven't talked and resolved it.
(I am open to suggestions on better rehearsing and acting out scenarios, though. Maybe there are more structured approaches to try or resources I haven't utilized, rather than e.g. yelling at an imaginary person during my commute..)
The biggest problem with the upcoming call is that I don't know how they will act. Maybe they'll apologize and try to fix things -- or maybe they'll laugh in my face and tell me I'm a terrible person. I won't know until I talk to them.
I'd like to prepare some strategies before having this conversation, in case it does go poorly. What can I do to de-escalate high emotions during the conversation? What techniques can I use to keep it from escalating in the first place?