The atmosphere in the room was tense to say the least. I was in a meeting discussing certain decisions that we had to take recently in the product. One person in my team were not happy with the way things were going. I knew that we were doing the right thing in the long term for the product, and was attempting to reach out to him and explain the reasoning behind the way we were approaching the problem. But he was just ranting at this point, lacing his responses with heavy sarcasm. Now Google is an intense environment but rarely have I seen folks lose their cool. There is a lot of discussion, and hashing out of solutions through arguments and discussions, but never this way. At that point, the one thing that was going on in my mind was "Stay Cool".
It is how we react under intense situations that defines us. We can all be genial, happy, smart and cool when the going is good. It is way harder to do that when your decision making skills are under question, and you feel as if you are in the middle of an inquisition.
As the discussion moved on, I kept my head up and kept answering his questions. You could cut the tension in the air with a knife, and I knew I was getting angrier at every step as the discussion dragged on. Thankfully the meeting ended. I got up and went for a long long walk, cleared up head, calmed down and headed back to work.
Soon I found out that the person had gone through a very tough time lately. A few days later, I approached him and we sat down and sorted out the issue.
In work, board meetings, team meetings, negotiations, and in many other situations, there are constantly conflict points in a discussion. One could get defensive and lose one's composure, or one could take it lying down and suck it up. But there may be a third way. Be firm, be logical about your opinion, respectful and lastly, dignified. In all, just stay cool.
You will not only be respected a lot more, you will also sound consistent and more credible.
PS: Don't try this in personal situations. Logic does not work there!