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Three Things You Can Do Instead Of Overreacting

Three Things You Can Do Instead Of Overreacting

If you look up the word “overreact” in most dictionaries, the gist of the definition goes something like this: “responding to a stimulus with more emotion or behavior than necessary.” Given this meaning, there are two possibilities here. Either you have evaluated your response and decided that it was more than what the situation called for, or someone else has given you feedback that they think this is the case. Either way, if it’s apparent that your emotional expression or physical action did not fit the parameters of the context in which they occurred, and you want to react differently in the future, there are three things you can do in less than five minutes to install a new mental program.

Role Model

Did you ever play the dress-up game as a kid where you put on dad’s shoes or “borrowed” some of your mother’s make-up and pretended to be an adult? Even though you didn’t know it at the time, games like dress-up are actually meaningful learning activities where children mimic a role model and act out pieces of behavior. Doing this literally “installs” those behavioral patterns with repetition. The first of the three things you can do to change your overreaction is to pick a role model who would behave in ways which you find appealing in the same context in which you used to overreact. This person can be real or fictitious. All you need is a mental movie of how they would behave that lasts for 2-3 seconds. Set up the role model in the same situation as yourself and run the movie. Pay careful attention to their way of speaking, their posture, voice tone, facial expression, and their mannerisms. Now play this movie in your head a few times, making sure all of the crucial pieces are in place and that their reaction is effective for you. Feel free to tweak any pieces that don’t fit.

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Rehearse

Now comes the fun part. Just like when you were a kid, mentally act out the scenario with the role model in mind, but this time step inside their skin and experience the clip from “behind their eyes.” See, hear and feel what you imagine what they would see, hear and feel. If something seems out of place, feel free to pop out of the role model and make any adjustments by watching your role model react in a better, more productive way that fits in with the overall ecology of who you are.

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The key to games like dress-up or copy-cat is repetition. Taking a minute or two and really getting inside of your role model a few times helps your brain and your body learn new emotions and behaviors that you’ll need the next time you’re triggered. When you’ve gotten this second part down, move on to the third and final step.

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Rewire

Human behaviors and emotions always occur within some kind of context. We really are not hard wired to be able to do a piece of behavior randomly. Regarding overreacting, there was a specific stimulus that triggered a sequence of thoughts and feelings which led to a specific output. To re-sequence this reaction you’ll need to attach your role model’s behavior, which you have acquired through rehearsal, to a reliable trigger that resides in the context we are working on. So, if your friend uses a certain voice tone that flips on your crazy switch or your husband gives you a look that sends you off the deep-end, create a new movie of that very trigger seeing yourself in your mind’s eye perceiving the trigger and then watch as you act with the same elegance as your role model–but this time it is you! Run the movie again remembering to jump into your own skin, perceive the trigger, and act out mentally what you would think, say and do in that situation now having the new resource of your role model.

You will be able to run through this technique quickly and easily once you try out this technique on a few examples from your past. In addition, you may be pleasantly surprised to discover that you can change other unwanted behaviors and feelings by learning from role models in this new and streamlined way. Feel free to experiment! It’s your mind and there is nothing wrong with playing with it.

Review

  1. Think of a role model who does not overreact.
  2. Create a short mental movie of that person in action noticing his/her non-verbal and verbal behaviors.
  3. Evaluate the effectiveness and make any necessary tweaks.
  4. Run the movie again with yourself in your role model’s skin.
  5. Choose a future context where you want to behave like your role model.
  6. See yourself in that context with the new behavior and step into the picture and look out through your own eyes.
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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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