How Do I Stop Overreacting?

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It’s not uncommon that issues that often upset people rarely deserve the anger they apply toward them, but the damage has already been done.

Many of my clients tell me it’s common that they often get into arguments and fights with people at home and at work. They know this behavior is troubling to themselves and others, but still feel that their behavior is justified in the moment, and do not know how to reign it in before it’s too late.

If their behavior pattern remains unattended to, it will often result in permanent damage their relationships at work and at home, creating a reputation that can negatively follow them for years to come. In my counseling, I attribute this behavior to the “Narcissist” in my Impostor Model of therapy, Soul Blazing, which you can learn more about here:

Here’s how to refrain from jumping down someone’s throat over who took your stapler at work, or forgot to take out the garbage at home!

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Take a breath (or five): This means that before you respond with a jabbing remark or reactionary email, take a moment and let the wave of anger pass over you. If something can upset you that quickly, then there’s no doubt it needs further investigation before you respond. If it means stepping out of the room, closing your laptop, or telling someone you’ll call them back, do it! There is always time to seek justice at a later time, but you can never take back incendiary remarks on the fly. Better to take a five-minute break now than damage a lifelong relationship!

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Give people the benefit of the doubt. Is there actually a possibility the person is telling you the truth? That they had good intentions whether or not they worked out? When you pounce on someone, your action is immediately communicating that you don’t trust them, and this will eventually result in a fractured work life and lonely personal one.

Think about it this way: if you expect everyone to be against you, you’ll begin to look for any reason to verify your suspicious perception with everyone you meet—and you’ll find examples, even if they’re not true, to ensure that your worldview remains intact. So why not try it the other way around? Why not first try on a positive outlook and imagine that you’re surrounded by well-intentioned people who have your best interests in mind? You’ll be surprised that you’ll find more examples of people’s good intentions than the other way around!

Don’t assume the worst. Somewhere along the timeline of your life, you were disappointed so severely or so often that you now naturally assume that people have it out for you. That way, you won’t have to be disappointed when someone lets you down. As a result, your inner Narcissist takes over during moments of agitation and lashes out, but you’d be surprised how often people do have good intentions not just for themselves, but for you as well.

Just because you may have been disappointed in the past doesn’t mean everyone should be guilty until proven innocent. How can they ever prove their innocence if you already think they’re disappointers-in-the-making? Do you see the conundrum? No one is perfect, everyone falls short, and that’s okay. Messing up happens—it’s how you handle it afterward that makes a good leader, and yelling does not equate to leadership. Be productive and try and solve the problem instead of making it worse!

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Forgiveness is more powerful than blame. Your anger comes from a deep place of fear and disappointment and it feels GREAT when you can release that onto another person… but you feel terrible later.  So after you take your deep breath, instead of verbally tearing someone apart, ask them what happened to cause the issue, and say “No problem. We can find a solution to this.”

You’re in control of your Narcissist Impostor, controlling your anger instead of it controlling you. Taking the higher ground also means that you exude a sense of control and leadership that commands respect, and that will only benefit you in the workplace and at home.

If you apply these suggestions to your daily routine, I promise you’ll discover people’s responses to you will be more positive, enthusiastic, and most importantly result in your team or family executing your requests to the fullest extent of their capability. It’s your responsibility as a leader to get the most out of your team, and positive reinforcement has proven to be a far more effective tool than negative reinforcement. Try it on for size, and reap the benefits of better work and personal relationships—watch your life and the lives around you flourish.

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