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9 Ways Mature People Deal With Negative Impulsive Thoughts

9 Ways Mature People Deal With Negative Impulsive Thoughts

Most of our days are filled with random thoughts. We have thousands of thoughts per day. Many of those thoughts we are facing are negative impulsive thoughts. Deepak Chopra was quoted in an article about meditation, saying that we may have between 60,000 – 80,000 different thoughts per day. How many of those are negative thoughts?

Sometimes the negative thoughts are impulsive, intrusive, and overpowering. Sometimes we act on those thoughts that do not seem like “us” or part of our character and we deeply regret it later. It could be something as simple as blurting out the first critical word to your best friend, really losing control with your children by screaming or yelling, or even something more. It could also be taking a financial risk that you know is not the best decision, or something like feeling the need to drink more than you should, or use drugs because of those negative impulsive thoughts.

We are unable to control our thoughts, but we do have the power and ability to control how we react to and deal with our thoughts, especially negative impulsive thoughts. Here are 9 ways mature people deal with negative impulsives.

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1. They use the H.A.L.T. method. 

The thought could be, “Go shopping and buy that outfit”, even when they don’t have the extra money. It could be, “Go eat that big fat greasy cheeseburger”, even when they are trying to eat healthy. For someone that struggles with addiction issues, the thought could be, “Just go stop off at that convenience store right now and buy a beer.” The thought for a really stressed out parent at the end of their patience could be, “These kids are so unruly right now, just spank the living you know what out of them.” People that have lived with negative thought patterns their entire lives, but choose a healthy reaction to those thoughts, ask themselves four questions that are included in the acronym for H.A.L.T. They ask themselves: Am I Hungry?  Am I Angry?   Am I Lonely?  Am I Tired?  If the answer to any of the questions are yes and they are having negative impulsive thoughts, they take a step back and don’t react right away. Once they are aware that they are lacking in food (or angry for any reason, or feel lonely, or feel tired), they are able to take a breath. They take care of their basic needs first instead of immediately reacting to those negative impulsive thoughts.

2. They keep a journal.

It is no secret that journaling one’s thoughts and feelings can be a positive act. However, it is a struggle for many to get into the habit. Once they write out some of their negative impulsive thoughts (or just write down the feelings surrounding them), they get it out of their head and on paper, and it releases the stress of the negative action that the thought might bring. Once their feelings surrounding these thoughts are written down, it is no longer stuck in their head or affecting their mood. Journaling one’s thoughts can also be a way to kept track of how frequently these negative impulsive thoughts might arise. If the negative impulsive thought might involve telling someone how you really feel in a negative or hurtful way, instead of writing in a journal, they might write a letter to that person or write out a text that they don’t ever send. This action allows for their feelings of anger to be released but not actually communicated or sent to the person those thoughts and actions would involve. This way, they avoid lashing out in anger or frustration but still allow the feelings to be released so that they don’t later turn into resentments.

3. They talk to someone.

It is known that having a mentor, a confidant, or someone you trust and you are able to talk about your thoughts, feelings or issues with, can really help your situation. Mature people talk to someone about their thoughts and feelings to help sort things out. It could be a close friend they trust, a therapist. a life coach, or even a mentor that they admire and consider someone that would offer them sound advice with any given situation. The person they share their information with is a safe person that is there to encourage and guide, not one to ridicule or judge their situation.

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4. They replace the negative impulsive thought with a positive action.

Sometimes they have negative impulsive thoughts about issues they might struggle with. If it’s about lack of patience or quick anger towards their children, instead of reflexively acting out, they take a step back. They go in a different part of the house or set a boundary with their children that they need some time for themselves. If they want to indulge in something sweet, or their favorite burger, or pizza joint, they go for a walk or exercise instead. It they want a new outfit or a pair of expensive shoes they can’t really afford, they organize or go through their closet and find a few items they haven’t worn in months. As a safe compromise, they could also browse clearance racks and buy one item instead of a larger purchase they can’t afford. If they have addiction issues, many times exercise or meditation can immediately change their mental state for the better and are a great tools to utilise during periods of negative impulsive thoughts about drinking or using drugs.

5. They process their feelings.

Feelings are just feelings. They are neither right nor wrong. Mature people process their feelings first and then choose which reaction they want to make based on those thoughts and feelings. They are first presented with a thought, then a feeling, and then they can decide how to respond. It is their responsibility to own their feelings and make the best choice they can, based on the situation. Mature people do not blame others for their actions or reactions, they take responsibility for their own actions. They realise they have the power of choosing how to react in any given situation, no matter how negative or chaotic the current situation may be.

6. They think through the outcome.

If we reacted on every single thought or feeling that came into our minds, there might be a lot more people in prison or possibly even dead. For the most part, we have pretty good self control as we don’t always react to every single thought, desire, or feeling that we experience. Mature people that have negative impulsive thoughts think through the outcome. They think what would happen if they were to react to each to every negative impulsive thought they have. For example, what if they drank too much and got behind the wheel of a vehicle. The worst outcome could be their death or someone else’s. Instead, they utilise a designated driver or a taxi. If someone in recovery from addiction issues thinks through their thoughts on going back to drinking or using drugs, they realize the relapse isn’t worth it and remain sober for that day. If someone that enjoys shopping a little too much thinks through the fact that they will go further into debt or worse, they decide not to go shopping at all. If someone struggles with food addiction and realises the long term affect could be a life threatening illnesses later down the road, they eat something healthier or decide to exercise. After thinking through the outcome of each negative impulsive thought, they have the power to have stronger self control.

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7. They filter out the lies. 

Many of the thoughts that come to us are not true, especially the negative impulsive ones. Some thoughts tell us lies, like if we do take that drink or buy that new outfit things will be great, when in reality there is a consequence for every negative action. Mature people take the thought in and recognize it is not true, rejecting it altogether. They will not act on impulse because they know if they follow through on the action based on the thought the outcome will be completely different than what their thoughts are telling them. When they are hurt by someone and their negative impulsive thoughts tell them to do the same to that person to get even or revenge, they know the true outcome will eventually be guilt or shame for hurting someone else even though they themselves have been hurt.

8. They practice forgiveness.

If we continue to hold resentments or grudges towards others that have hurt us then anger will follow us everywhere we go. With the feeling of anger being a volatile one that can catapult a myriad of negative reactions in the span of a few seconds. It is dangerous to continuously have underlying anger in our lives because we have not forgiven others. Mature people practice forgiveness in their lives so that anger is not an underlying presence. Many times, feeling anger can be justified if others have hurt us, but to hold onto that anger is detrimental to our happiness. If we don’t forgive others, we actually allow them to still have control in our lives and our past because we have not let go of the event or person that hurt us. Forgiveness is a process, but mature people find other people that can help them work on the process of forgiveness and be able to live their lives with a clearer conscious and a heart that is no longer bitter. There is freedom in forgiveness. Mature people continually practice forgiveness. This makes them less likely to give in to negative impulsive thoughts because they have no lingering anger, hate, or resentments towards others just waiting to rise up within them.

9. The practice prayer or meditation.

Many times, believing in something greater than yourself can be a very positive thing. Mature people utilize prayer or meditation to lessen the stress of everyday life by giving those issues up to something greater than themselves. They could be a part of many of the numerous practicing religions around the world today, or just giving up their issues to a higher power (which many recovery groups are based on). They choose to believe in something else to help them get through their everyday lives. When negative impulsive thoughts come, they pray for the thoughts to stop, or to be led to the best reaction based on whichever negative impulsive thought they are faced with.

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Featured photo credit: Elade Manu via flickr.com

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Wendy Redden

Digital Advertising Account Manager, Music Blogger, Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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