Got a question for you.
Have you ever been in a situation where you reacted to something or someone and later on you regretted what you said or did?
Maybe it’s happened numerous times with a coworker or client.
Or maybe this is a problem you’ve had in your personal relationships.
Bottom line is this. Although you may have every intention to respond to these situations in healthy and productive ways you just never seem to be able to slow down in enough time to think through your response. And instead you end up blurting out a reaction that you later regret.
Not only is it exhausting for you but it can be equally frustrating for the people you interact with.
I bring this up because I often struggle with the same problem.
It happened to me just a few weeks ago with a not-so-friendly interaction I had with someone via email. And it happens more often than I’d like to admit with people that I love such as my husband.
Instead of responding, I also find myself in situations where I react, I say and do things I don’t mean and then I regret every second of it in hindsight.
So if you’re in the market for strategies that will help you to slow down and respond in uncomfortable situations instead of reacting, today’s post is for you.
You’ll learn about several strategies I’ve started to use in my own life that have helped me think before I respond. Especially when every ounce of energy in my body is telling me to do otherwise.
Once you’ve had a chance to read I’d love to hear your take on today’s topic. In the comment section share any strategies you’ve successfully used to help you slow down before reacting. Or, if this is an area that you really have difficulty in, share what you struggle with. Together as a community, we may be able to figure out a strategy that will help you.
Look. As ACOAs and people in recovery we’re all in this together. And our greatest asset, as we recover, is each other.
The more we share and expose what we think makes us different from one another, the more likely we are to discover how similar we all really are.
Remember your voice, experiences and insights are vital to this community. And what you have to share is not only unique but it may be exactly what someone else needs to read. And that someone could be you.
Until Next Tuesday,
P.S. If someone you know is looking for advice on how to moderate their reactions to sticky situations share this post with them. It may just be exactly what they need to read.
#1 Leverage Your Could Of, Would Of, Should Of
Most of us, when we have an interaction or should we say reaction that doesn’t go so well we focus on how shitty we feel about it afterward. We zero in on what we could of done, what we would of done and what we should of done if only we knew better.
But I’d argue that this is a waste of your focus. Sure you could spend hours even days brooding over your actions but when you do that you lose out on the opportunity to really dig into the situation and gather a greater understanding of what happened so that you can be better prepared to respond rather than react the next time.
So instead of beating yourself up afterwards, try to see the value in every situation you have where you weren’t able to slow down before you responded.
These real life interactions can teach you a whole hell of a lot more about the changes you need to make to respond in a calm and collected manner than any book or teacher outside of yourself will ever be able to do.
And not only that but these experiences can also help you to isolate the choices you’re making in those moments that are causing you to react the way you do.
As Paulo Coelho says:
When you repeat a mistake, it is not a mistake anymore: it is a decision.
Becoming aware of the choices you’re making in these scenarios where you feel compelled to hurry up and react could also go a long way in broadening your understanding of what needs to change.
As you reflect on these situations, get curious about the choices you made. What did you assume or decide was true about the other person that may not have been so. Where could you have paused to decide to choose a new or more productive way to respond.
Of course, all of this is much easier said than done. It’s not about doing any of this perfectly it’s about realizing that you can leverage your experiences in these situations. And that these experiences can become your greatest teachers.
#2 Learn To Feel The Warning Signs
A great way to learn to slow down before you react is to tune into what’s going on in your body.
This approach worked for me just last weekend while my husband and I were checking out at a beverage store.
The cashier said something that I didn’t hear the first time around and when I asked him to repeat what he said, he got a little snotty with me.
Typically my reaction in these situations would be to go for the jugular. And although I did say a few things that were easily headed in that direction, I was able to stop myself in enough time to take stock of what was going on in my body.
When I shifted my focus to the sensations in my body, I felt my shoulders getting tight, I could feel that I had started to clench my teeth and the skin on my face felt prickly and hot.
These were all the sensations I’ve felt previously in situations where I reacted to something too quickly.
Taking this extra step saved me from repeating responses that would’ve only filled my mind with regret later
Because I checked in with the sensations in my body, I knew that I was getting worked up and that created space for me to make the choice to walk away from the cashier and let my husband, who was in a much calmer state, finish the transaction.
Bottom line is this – start paying attention to how you feel in your body when you’re about to react to something. Get used to how that feels. And the next time you start to feel that way, take that as a warning that you need to walk away or make a conscious effort to slow down.
Your body is there to help you. If you learn to listen to it, it will let you know when it’s time to walk away.
#3 Turn Your Triggers Into Conversations
Knowing ahead of time what contributes to or triggers your reactions not only benefits you but that information can also be a huge asset to the people around you.
For example, I’ve written before about how I can easily glide into bitch mode when I’m hungry.
And for just about any situation I find myself in I know that my reactions are going to suffer if I’m hungry.
That’s why I make sure that my husband, friends and even people that I travel with understand that if I’m hungry I’m probably not going to react to stress calmly.
Letting people close to me know this ahead of time does a few things.
#1 It takes some of the stress off my back. If I know that I’ve warned everybody ahead of time that I get snippy when I’m hungry then it eases any anxiety I have over how I might react. Now of course this doesn’t give me a pass to just act like a bitch and then blame it on being hungry or say, “I told you so.” But it can clear up any confusion or mend any unintentionally hurt feelings quicker if everyone’s on the same page.
#2 It gives everyone involved permission to find humor in a situation that could escalate unnecessarily. So for example, if I react to something and my husband knows that I need to eat he’ll make a jokey comment like, “Look out, somebody needs to eat.” And usually a joke like that not only puts everyone else at ease but it also helps to slow me down in the moment.
Now I realize that this tip may not work when you’re in professional situations but it can certainly help you slow down and gain perspective when you’re with people that you love.
#4 Cast Yourself In The Leading Role
Casting yourself in the leading role is all about giving yourself permission to take charge in uncomfortable interactions. When you give yourself that silent permission to determine how an interaction between you and another person is going to end then you feel powerful instead of powerless.
If you cast yourself in that leader role then you get to decide both how the conversation will go and how you are going to feel once the interaction is over.
As I’ve searched for ways to slow myself down so that I can respond instead of react to people, I’ve found it helpful to pretend as if I’m the one in charge of the interaction. That I get to decide how heated and hysterical or how calm and purposeful the interaction will be by the way that I act and react.
In my mind, I pretend that I’m the one in charge and for some reason this imaginary power instantly slows me down and gives me the space I need to make better choices.
It also helps me to focus on how I want to feel after the conversation or interaction is over. Do I want to feel like a piece of shit because I reacted abruptly and said things I didn’t mean? Or do I want to walk away knowing that I acted as professionally or responsibly as possible and so I have nothing to regret with what I said or did.
Here’s another helpful question to ask yourself, How do you want to feel when this conversation or interaction is over? And what do you need to do to make sure you feel that way?
I used these questions to help me slow down last weekend when I was dealing with the snotty cashier.
I asked myself how I wanted to feel the rest of the day knowing that if I really gave it to him and made a scene that I’d feel like crap for the rest of the day. And I didn’t want to feel that way so I walked away just in time.
#5 Learn To Lean Into Your Learning Curve
According to merriam-webster.com a learning curve is the course of progress made in learning something.
I bring this up here to remind you to be kind, caring, compassionate and forgiving with yourself as you learn to slow down in your reactions.
No matter what approach you decide to take, know that it’s okay to make mistakes. Know that it’s okay to experiment and to lean into the learning curve.
You won’t succeed every time you try but you’ll never succeed if you don’t try. Dawn Clancy