Is honesty, saying exactly what is on my mind, always the best policy? All of us have experienced an outburst from someone who is reacting and has not stopped to think – that does not feel good! When do I say what I think and when is it good to hold back?
It is important to acknowledge emotions and feelings; they are telling us something. It is however, not always wise to act on them. One thing to notice when we are upset is our body language and the tone of the thoughts running through our heads. Is my body tense and rigid, perhaps ready to strike a blow, or is my stomach just in knots? Are the thoughts running through my brain thoughts of “I’ll show him a thing or two,” or “Yeah, well you did this, and this, and this.” Those examples are clear signals that it is wise to take a breather and hold off on any type of response.
What I am feeling tells me something important but, before responding it is wise to ask myself why I feel tense or why I want to scream at someone. Feelings are the first indicators of what is first needed before handling an upset. Reacting in the moment is rarely wise and often situations escalate when we do.
Taking time to calm myself down is an important step in handling any situation well. By calming myself with deep breathing, or some other form of relaxation, I increase my oxygen levels and stimulate blood flow to my brain. Calming down also lets me to set some distance between matters, allowing me time to think about my response.
Take a deep breath
In the heat of disagreement that clearly is headed nowhere, it is appropriate to say, “I know we need to talk about this, but right now I am too upset to think calmly and speak in a respectful manner. Let’s take a break and we can talk about this when we are both calm.” It is hard to argue with logic like that.
When I have calmed down I will be in a much better state to think about moving a situation towards win-win. (Win-win was discussed in the PIC blog on February 20th and 26th). In short, all our thoughts and emotions tell us something and it is wise to listen to them. Unfiltered emotions or thoughts rarely are wise to share. Instead, it is wisdom to view my response through the lens of relationship – how can I work with the other person, respectfully, and grow our relationship through this conflict? If you are a parent this is an excellent time to model and teach this valuable life skill to your children. This kind of modeling will serve them well as they grow and enter into more complex relationships. The good news about conflict is that life provides multiple opportunities for growth and improvement in our relationship skills.
Growing together with you, Judith