In a previous post I asked if you were an emotional pack rat. Stephen responded and left the following comment:
“Any thoughts on how to change your character, you know, the way you are that means that you would behave in the same regrettable way in the future?”
It’s an interesting question and the answers usually lie in two camps: yes you can change and no you can’t. Personally I believe you can change but the key to changing is having the right motivation and the absolute desire to do it.
Understanding what sets you off
What is it that sets you off? Is it someone’s perceived attitude, disrespect or cheeky-ness towards you? Is it things in your home that aren’t cared for in the way you would like them to be cared for? Is it kids talking back? Is it people being argumentative? Is it really nothing at all?
Be honest. Knowing what sets you off in the first place is incredibly valuable information to have. It can help prepare you for future occurrences before they happen.
Take ownership of your situation; almost everything can be seen from the perspective “what could I have done?”. Blaming the kids for making you angry or your boss for annoying you is incredibly dis-empowering and in general just isn’t a good way to look at your situation. Take control of your situation and own it the best you can.
Set your expectations accordingly
One reason that we get upset or angry is because what happens doesn’t meet our expectations. If you’re constantly angry over kids screaming, maybe you’re expecting too much; after-all they are kids. Change your perspective and start to expect it. Ask yourself, “What did you think kids were going to do?” Whatever your trigger is, start asking yourself realistically, honestly, what did you expect? When your expectations are met the disconnect in what you thought would happen in relation to what actually happened isn’t there.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to like what’s happening. Just be realistic with what’s going on.
Once you know what sets you off, start planning how you’re going to deal with it when it happens again, and you know it’s going to happen again. Picture it, your working quietly at your desk when your boss comes up and tells you the project you’ve been working on for the past 2 weeks is no longer going ahead. What are you going to do? If you don’t like how you’ve handled this type of situation in the past forget about that as a plan of attack and start getting some new ideas flowing. Think about what you’ll say if you’re not sure what to say plan on being quiet for a while.
It’s much easier to come up with good ideas when you’re calm and don’t have the stimulus staring you in the face.
Reacting vs. Responding
Reacting is following through with what first comes to mind. It’s usually ugly, makes you feel terrible and is something you’ll regret later. It’s likely that following your initial reaction you will make others people around you feel uncomfortable, stupid, wrong, or intimidated, whether it was your intention or not.
Is it wrong that you have an initial reaction? Of course not we all have them, it’s what you do with them that matters. You can give in or you can consciously suppress it and choose to do something more constructive.
In my opinion, responding is the better option. If you’ve taken time to think of what you will do when the situation presents itself you’ll be better equipped to respond.
Responding is a much more positive approach overall. Responding requires you to put some distance between the stimulus and when you address it. The more space you put between the two, the more likely you are to respond in a way that allows everyone to walk away feeling good, including yourself.
How do you respond?
- Again, space. This can be in terms of time or actual physical distance. Sometimes we just need to walk away in order to cool down and not say or do something that we will regret in the future. Take this time to think about the persons intentions, what was actually meant, and even if this is a battle worth fighting – sometimes they just aren’t.
- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Give some thought as to how you would like to be treated in a similar situation. Would you appreciate being yelled at, belittled or disrespected? Likely not. I can assure you the same goes for the person you’re responding to – despite their age.
- Beware of your tone. A lot of time it’s not what you say that offends someone else but how you say it. Choose your tone carefully.
- Let it go. Once you’ve dealt with the situation, Let. It. Go. Dragging punishment or attitude out over days is just silly. Deal with the issue, resolve it as quickly and as amicably as you can and move on. Do something nice for the other person to show that you have no hard feelings. It won’t only make them feel good but it will also make you feel good.
All the mental preparation and planning doesn’t mean you won’t screw up. You will. You can’t fundamentally change who you are overnight or over a few weeks. You’ll screw up, several times I’m sure, it’s natural and it’s okay. How you handle your screw ups is important though.
None of us are perfect but owning your mistake and making things right will make everyone involved feel better.
You do have a choice in how you react or respond. To shrug it off and say “oh I have a temper” or “I’m just hot headed” doesn’t cut it. Get in control and if you really want to change know that you can. Treat people with the kindness they deserve and make the choice to respond not to react.