Here are 5 steps that you can take to stop yourself from reacting defensively every now and then:
1. Pause. Stop and Think.
When someone attacks us, the first thing we do is counter-attack!
This is where you have to stop. The moment you realize your system is about to blast, STOP!
Tell yourself, “I can retaliate but not before I review the entire situation in a quick span of 5 minutes.”Delay your wish to counter-attack.
And in the meantime, take a moment to calm yourself down, think what transpired and try to make sense of the situation.
Counter-attack often happens so fast that we do not get the time to logically think the situation over. So, calming oneself down in such a situation is an ultimate necessity.
2. Practice Responding, give up reacting.
What’s the difference? You might ask. A reaction is typically quick, happens within a flash of a moment, is most aggressive and inappropriate. When you respond, it is well perceived and more logically thought over and hence, it improves communication instead of messing it up.
When you react, you are overwhelmed with emotions, type a quickie and hit the send button, feeling anger spreading through your body.
And when you respond, you type, think, pause, type again but never hit the send button. You sit and ponder to revise what an appropriate response should be – free of bias and emotional loading. You see for yourself, the first and the second point is interlinked. You need to give yourself the time to respond instead of reacting.
Start from today. With time you will master yourself the art of responding.
3. Be in their mental frame.
It’s easy to react to what others say to you but the most difficult part is to be in their shoes. Maybe something that the other person said was offensive to you but that might be simply normal for that person.
Consider their habits, personal choices, cultural background, personality and their frame of mind. Go out of your box and try to perceive things from their point of view.
For once, be them, live their emotions and thoughts and you might acquire a new perspective about them. They might not seem half as mean as they currently do!
4. Know that other people are separate from you.
Everyone has distinct life experiences. We are what we have experienced in the past. None of our stories are the same.
We are all fighting our own battles that others do not know about. Who knows if the person who cursed you in public transport just projected your life frustrations or not?
Before being judgmental about someone who ill-treated, offended or triggered your emotions, know that it was born in their psyche. Not that their behavior is justified but they are accountable for it. Not you. All you can do is not allow their negativity to sip into your life.
5. Look within yourself.
The next time you react, ask yourself, “Where is this coming from?”
It might be some unresolved conflict, a dissonance in thought or dysregulated emotions – whichever it is, the source of your reaction is within you.
Give yourself some time. Sit down with a pen and paper, think of an incident when you reacted defensively and ask yourself the following questions to gain insight:
- What was the trigger?
- Was my response appropriate?
- What better ways could I have responded?
- What was I thinking when I reacted in that manner?
- Which emotions were associated with it?
- What does the reaction tell about me?
Every time you ask yourself these questions, you develop a better understanding of the underlying mechanism that leads you to react defensively. Try being aware of what is going inside you. Once you have unraveled what’s in your mind, you gain complete control over yourself. Because..
More information is always better than less. When people know the reason things are happening, even if it’s bad news, they can adjust their expectations and react accordingly. Keeping people in the dark only serves to stir negative emotions. – Simon Sinek