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How To Control The Way You React (part two)

How To Control The Way You React (part two)

    In part one we began to look at how we deal with, or react to, the various happenings in our world. I observed that we have reacting and we have thinking and for some of us, the two don’t merge very often. And therein lies the problem; something happens and we respond without thinking, planning, assessing or considering the consequences of our reaction. If we are serious about creating the new-and-improved version of us then we need to find a way to insert some reason, logic and consciousness into our reactions. Of course I am talking about reactions to significant events and challenges here, not our incidental, daily blips on the radar.

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    Positive and Negative Reactions.

    For many people, their biggest day-to day-challenge lies in learning to react differently. For some their inability to control their reactions may one day ruin their life. They are often volatile, irrational, inconsiderate, unaware and self-centred. At one end of the scale a negative reaction might temporarily damage a relationship or create some kind of short term problem between friends or colleagues, while at the other end of the scale, an irrational, unthinking reaction (brain snap) might see a person spend the rest of their life in jail; a life ruined (and possibly another one ended) because of a reaction.

    Creating Better Outcomes

    In order to create better outcomes in our world and turn those negative reactions into positive ones, we must learn to put some space between the event (the thing we’re about to react to) and our response. A little thinking music of sorts. They say that “time is the great healer”, well it can also be the great “preventer of regrettable and stupid reactions” when we insert it between the stimulus (event, situation, circumstance, problem) and our subsequent behaviour.

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    We’re all Different

    As with any prescription (exercise, food, medication, psychotherapy), there’s no blanket solution for this challenge but there are certain things we can do to minimise our chances of doing something we’ll regret; reacting negatively. I can’t provide you with a three-step process which will be universally effective for combating negative reactions because we’re all wired differently and what pushes our buttons varies greatly. What will stress me, won’t bother you and vice-versa. What will cause a ‘reaction’ in you will go un-noticed by me.

    Here are my suggestions. Use what’s relevant and meaningful for you.

    1. Embrace calm. Obvious I know, but the more stressed, anxious and volatile we are in our general living (thinking, behaviours, conversations, habits, relationships), the more likely we are to react inappropriately in those moments. Calm, peaceful, balanced people rarely become axe murderers. And you won’t see too many Buddhists jumping out of their car with a baseball bat either. Even if you did cut them off. Do Buddhists even play baseball? Sorry, I digress.

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    2. Put space between the event and the reaction. I remember one of my school teachers telling us kids to count to one hundred when we got angry. She was pretty smart; she was teaching us to put some space between the event and our reaction. Of course different things work for different people but you and I need to find a way to create a time buffer so that we don’t do something regrettable. Once you’ve punched your neighbour in the mouth, you can’t really undo that! Finding that time buffer might mean hanging up the phone and calling back in ten minutes, it could mean going for a walk, or it may mean completely shifting your attention to something else for a while and then coming back to that issue, situation or person later. These days my self-control is pretty good but when I was a young (insecure) alpha male, I would often walk away from a (potentially volatile) situation and address it later when I was in a better place (emotionally). It worked for me.

    3. Ask different questions. I have spoken many times about how the quality of our questions affects our behaviours (reactions), the quality of our outcomes and in turn, our life reality. When we ask better (smarter, more thoughtful) questions, we typically create better outcomes.

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    4. Invest your emotional energy wisely. Earlier this year I wrote an article on how and where we spend our emotional dollars. Let’s just say that many of us don’t invest wisely and as a result, don’t get a great return on our investment. You might want to re-visit that article when you have a chance.

    5. Wear a wrist band. Call it your calm band. Call it your positive reaction band. Call it whatever you want but wear it as a reminder of what and who you’re becoming; someone who reacts differently. Someone who creates better outcomes. Someone who manages their emotions rather than someone who is managed. Someone who is more aware, more evolved, more balanced and more in control. It’s about raising your consciousness and awareness. Of course the band is symbolic but used the right way, it can help you keep your head – thinking, attitudes, internal dialogue, reactions – where they need to be. I have worked with many people who firmly believe that wearing their wrist band helped them in a real, practical and measurable way. It was a constant physical reminder of their commitment to do, be and create better in their life. For some people, a band is a simple tool that will help them stay aware, conscious and productive. For others, it’s simply another stupid idea. Funny that.

    Okay, I’m off to find my baseball bat.

    Clearly, I’m not the Buddhist I should be.

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    Craig Harper

    Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

    How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

    We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

    We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

    So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

    Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

    What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

    Boundaries are limits

    —they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

    Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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    Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

    Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

    Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

    How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

    Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

    1. Self-Awareness Comes First

    Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

    You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

    To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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    You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

    • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
    • When do you feel disrespected?
    • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
    • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
    • When do you want to be alone?
    • How much space do you need?

    You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

    2. Clear Communication Is Essential

    Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

    Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

    3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

    Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

    That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

    Sample language:

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    • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
    • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
    • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
    • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
    • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
    • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
    • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

    Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

    4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

    Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

    Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

    Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

    We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

    It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

    It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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    Final Thoughts

    Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

    Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

    Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

    The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

    Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

    Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

    They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

    Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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