A former Google engineer uses the same 5-minute practice to defuse tension at home and at work

Visualize how your partner is just like you, says Chade-Meng Tan, pictured.
Courtesy of Chade-Meng Tan

Anyone who’s been in a relationship knows that a person’s “work personality” doesn’t always match up to their “home personality.”

As in: There’s a slim chance your partner would blow up at a coworker for playing his music slightly too loud. But she might very well let into you for listening to an annoying podcast without headphones while she’s trying to sleep.

In his 2012 book, “Search Inside Yourself,” former Google engineer Chade-Meng Tan shares how he’s learned to take parts of his work personality home with him.

Tan, who was Google employee No. 107, is also the creator of the wildly popular emotional-intelligence course by the same name as the book, which he taught to thousands of his coworkers. (The course has since spread across the globe.)

In the book, Tan explains how an adaption of the “Just Like Me/Loving Kindness” practice, which he teaches in SIY, has benefitted his interpersonal relationships – specifically, his marriage.

Tan writes:

“Whenever I have a fight with my wife or a co-worker, I go to another room to calm down and after a few minutes of calming down, I do this exercise in stealth.

“I visualize the other person in the next room. I remind myself that this person is just like me, wants to be free from suffering just like me, wants to be happy just like me, and so on. And then I wish that person wellness, happiness, freedom from suffering, and so on.

“After just a few minutes of doing this, I feel much better about myself, about the other person, and about the whole situation. A large part of my anger dissipates immediately.”

Tan goes on: “I reckon this practice is a major reason being married to me does not totally suck.”

This exercise can be harder than it sounds. When you’re in the middle of a heated conflict with your partner, you’ll have to override the natural impulse to shout something cruel and hurtful. It’ll take some time before it becomes a habit.

But this exercise is also a neat example of how you can help defuse a conflict by working on your own response. Instead of focusing on changing your partner’s behavior, you’re reframing the way you see the situation – which, in the end, is really all you can control.