Have you ever found yourself reacting to someone else’s negative behavior impulsively? Maybe a friend or family member makes a comment that triggers you and you react with a passive aggressive comment? Or a boss or co-worker sends an email that rubs you the wrong way so you answer with negative attitude?
We have all been there from time to time. But reacting without thinking can get you into trouble, or even cause embarrassment. Here are some tips on how to better control impulsive reactions.
Take a deep breath.
When we feel threatened, physically, psychologically or emotionally, we go into fight-or-flight mode. Fight-or-flight is our survival instinct to protect ourselves by fighting (physically or verbally) or running away. Take a deep breath to lower the emotional and chemical reaction of fight-or-flight, allowing you to think more clearly.
Wait a few seconds before replying, longer if you’re able to. A few seconds or minutes up front saves you hours or days of a headache. Unless it’s life threatening, you don’t have to answer the person right away.
Are you reacting emotionally?
Ask yourself (during the pause) if your reaction is out of anger, irritability, hurt, or any type of negative emotion. Or is it a rational reaction.
When we react emotionally, we often say or do things that we don’t really mean. Look at the issue for what it is and try reacting accordingly.
Walking away is not a sign of weakness. It gives you physical space between you and the person you’re reacting to and makes it easier to pause. Plus, it helps you not hurt the other person.
If you’re reacting to a complete stranger, like another driver or a random customer at a store, it might be easier since you don’t know them. They’re complete strangers to you so who cares what they think or say. You most likely will never see them again. Ask yourself, “is this going to matter in a year from now?”
If you’re reacting to someone you interact with frequently, you might be tempted even more to react impulsively. If it’s something they frequently do that irritates you, it’s important to set boundaries with them or tell them, appropriately, how their behavior makes you feel.
Ask for clarification.
Could you be misinterpreting what someone is saying? This happens often when communicating through email or text. Don’t assume that the person is being rude. Instead stop and ask for clarification.
Do you have trouble controlling your impulses often?
I’m sorry to tell you this but not everything is everyone else’s fault. Are you over reacting?
Sometimes when you have unresolved issues or hold your feelings in, you blow up more quickly. It could be the smallest thing that a person does, such as body language, tone of voice or even specific words that could be triggering something deeper in you. Maybe the way your teacher or boss talks to you triggers the way a highly critical parent would talk to you growing up.
Recognizing if it’s “your stuff” helps you separate the person you’re dealing with and your own feelings.
If you liked this post, share it with your friends. Remember to subscribe below to continue regularly getting posts like this one.
About the author.
Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, adults, and Spanish speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.