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How to Be Less Emotionally Reactive


I took a Rapid Anger Resolution workshop presented by the founder of Rapid Resolution Therapy, Dr. Jon Connelly, in February. If you either work with me or read my blogs regularly you’re likely familiar with the recall-reality connection posited by him. The workshop was on stopping resentment reactions, which Connelly calls “anger in retro,” and responding to difficult situations by being “alert, strategic and creative.”

When you’re dealing with a controlling boss, critical spouse, or bossy neighbor, how do you react? If you’re like most humans, you feel wronged and mount a defense or attack. Does that work for you? I know it doesn’t for me. As Connelly explains, this is a normal animal response, but we are the only animals able to change it and handle situations more appropriately and effectively. 

He makes a few suggestions:

  • Aim to reduce hostility. Unfortunately, we usually wrongly react from what we think is right and just, not what will work to reduce enmity. Rather than insist to yourself or others that you are justified in being angry, which you very well might be, focus on what will calm the situation, which might be empathizing or agreeing with someone about something they said. Join with them rather than push them away.
  • Change your thinking about what should happen. Connelly maintains that “no other life form thinks things shouldn’t have happened.” Zebras, ducks and elephants don’t walk around ruminating about the fact that there should be more available food or that they shouldn’t have to be out so much in lousy weather. Lose the resentment of what should have been and focus on what is and what to do about it.
  • Stop giving information when people are angry. When we’re fuming, our rational thinking usually goes off line, and we can’t take in information. Connelly (rather brilliantly) describes giving information to an irate person as trying to feed someone who’s vomiting. It doesn’t work, so pause and find another strategy that will defuse the situation.
  • Quit focusing on your anger as a right. It is one, so that’s settled. You now can stop trying to prove you’re entitled to your anger (a leftover from growing up). The idea is to focus on expressing yourself in a manner to serve your goal. If your goal is to change another person, that may or may not be possible, but it certainly won’t happen from you giving them information or being furious with them when they’re already angry. That will only come to pass when you have a cooler brain.

Visit Rapid Resolution Therapy for more information or to find an RRT therapist.