As Aretha Franklin once sang, “you better think ‘bout what you’re tryin’ to do to me”.
She weren’t no psychiatrist, she weren’t no doctor with degrees, but the lady certainly made a good point.
How many times have you said or done something without thinking – and immediately regretted it afterwards?
If you’re one of those people who perennially has their foot in their mouth (and an office full of surly colleagues to show for it), then please read on.
One thing that definitely helps is to become aware of your own ego. Keep in mind that the ego never wants to be wrong or concede a point. In most cases, it doesn’t even want to listen to an opposing view.
All the ego wants to do is protect you and see you come out on top. So if a friend, colleague or family member makes a statement that you disagree with, your ego will be rushing to challenge and/or defeat it with your own viewpoint. This very often results in arguments, which in turn produce a lot of knee-jerk statements and actions.
To avoid this, you need to become fully aware of your triggers. These could be certain phrases or words, points of view or even something a particular person does that ‘gets your goat’ (hats off to the person we used to know who would place a hand upon our shoulder and exhale loudly before telling us where we’d ‘gone wrong’).
Once you can recognize these triggers, you’ll have a bit of advance warning before you say or do something retaliatory. At this point, you can stop yourself by, as Tiny Budda’s Kelly Pietrangeli words it, “hitting the mental ‘pause’ button” and taking a deep breath.
As you do, simply observe the situation dispassionately. Take your own feelings out of the equation. Be aware of your thoughts and emotions, but do not dwell on them or engage with them in any way.
At first, your ego will be like an overeager tag-team partner, kicking and screaming to ‘put that person in their place’, ignore it. When you feel ready, respond calmly, maintain eye contact and politely reply
As an aside, it really doesn’t matter for the example above if you are right or wrong. You might absolutely know, for a cast-iron fact, that you are correct. Your loud proclamation of fact, based (as it no doubt is) on research and first-hand experience forged in the fire of credible statistical data and scientific learning, is not likely to get past the other person’s ego, which is already rushing up to defend him or her in exactly the same way yours just did.
More often than not, an argument is a battle of egos rather than viewpoints – and rare indeed is the person whose ego allows him or her to back down after being proven wrong.
Once you’ve mastered the techniques described above, you can begin to ‘screen’ your thoughts. Ask yourself if what you’re about to say to someone is actually true, for example.
You should also ask yourself if whatever you’re thinking of saying is at all useful to either of you. Insulting people is never useful, nor is mocking them. These things won’t help the other person agree with you, nor will they help you to make your point. Both are dead ends.
Choose your words carefully. How many online comments do you see that begin with a phrase like “absolute rubbish” before going on to explain why the commenter disagrees?
Ask yourself if the recipient of such comment actually reads past the opening lines? Are they really going to consider that person’s viewpoint when it begins by insulting their own?
Once someone leaves a comment like that, it’s just another case of ‘egos at war’ and you can pretty much guarantee that nothing will be solved afterwards.
These techniques take practice, but they probably won’t be as hard to learn as you think. In any instance, the benefits will far outweigh the drawbacks in terms of your career, relationships and general well-being.
Perhaps Aretha said it best, “think. Let your mind go. Let yourself be free”
Photo is pixabay creative commons
Guest Author Bio
Working The Doors
This is part of a larger guide from the Working The Doors website about anger management techniques.