Don't let a hot-under-the-collar customer or co-worker cause you to lose your cool. Instead, use these four tips from Roberta Cava, author of Dealing With Difficult People (www.cavaconsulting.com): Soothe the tension in your body by taking a series of deep, calming breaths. The belligerent person may have triggered your “fight or flight” instinct. Suggest a timeout for both sides to think things over, calm down and reassess the situation with a clear head. Repeat after me … Paraphrase what the person says. That lets him or her know you’re listening. Show that you’re willing to negotiate. You can’t change a difficult person, but you can show that you’re open to changing your position. If you won’t budge, the other person probably won’t, either. Caveat: If the person has completely “lost it,” stick with step No. 2.