Learn how to get in front of those impulses that cause conflict and stress!
Oops! It happened again. David meant to express empathy and concern to his father, who was upset about a business problem. Instead, he blurted out, “Well, don’t expect me to do anything! I have no time to waste on stuff like that!” As soon as it was out of his mouth, he knew…. he’d done it again. His mouth had operated before his brain even started to think! And his dad was angry – and not holding back from letting him know that!
If only David had known how to get his stop sign back! See, often the only difference between David and lots of other folks – the ones who think first – is that stop sign in his head…. the one that should be popping up to warn its host: “Keep mouth closed! Put brain in motion…. then use the words that actually work for you!”
Below are some approaches that can help your brain to think before your mouth gets you in trouble. Just keep in mind that these tips will only work if you practice using them on the small stuff as well as those larger challenges.
1) Stop…. as soon as you notice that flutter in your stomach, your tight shoulders, clenched fist or other feelings that usually come just before you say or do something you can’t take back! So here’s where you take a deep breath, and move on to the next step…
2) Look… at the the other person’s facial expression and body language. Is this a good time to make your opinion or feelings known? Or could you use that feedback to say it a different way?
3) Listen… to the tone of voice you’re hearing. And to the words being spoken. Few comments need an immediate response. Maybe this is a good time to keep your mouth shut! You can respond a bit later, when you’ve had time to edit your comments.
So now what? You’ve been a good observer. You’ve noticed all the danger signs and restrained your need to respond. You’ve held back on your impulse to “just say it!” And you’ve avoided that “can’t-take-it-back” moment. But you still want to express your thoughts and feelings. And you definitely should be able to do that.
At this point, you’ve taken the time to gather your thoughts, are able to think more clearly, and you’ve decided to act instead of react. By now, you’re ready to respond.
Take a look back at the original example. Consider how David could have reacted in a less offensive (to his father) way. Here’s one possible response: “I’m sorry that happened. Want to talk about it?” If his father asks for help he can’t give, David is now prepared to respond in a way that will help both David and his father to feel much better about the conversation and each other.
If you’d like more information about impulse and anger management strategies, have some questions for me or would just like to give me some feedback on this post, I’d love to hear from you. Please contact me now, and I’ll be sure to reply.