"Well, I most certainly screwed that up" I remember thinking after I hung up the phone.
Oh, how I longed for the phones back in the day that you could actually slam down, instead of just pressing the end button, which for some reason does not carry with it the same umph you know what I mean?
I had just had the worst conversation with someone that I cared about so much, and although the adrenaline was still flowing through my veins, I had enough state of mind to realize - I had just totally overreacted!!
So what the heck was going on? Why and how had that happened? And how could I prevent it from ever happening again!
As I walked my way back through the conversation I could see that at a certain point I had let some negative emotions work their way into my being, and instead of doing the right thing and expressing them, I had let them fester and grow until I had exploded! And now I could not feel worse!
Which made me learn the hard way just how much our feelings affect and change how we interpret what we hear!
When we are in a state of fear, anxiety, suspicion or anger we interpret the things we hear in a much more hostile way, which then, of course, causes us to respond in a much more hostile way! Even something as simple as being tired at the end of a long day can make a simple request feel like a massive demand of our time and energy!
So what do we do?
A huge part of limiting the number of times that we overreact is to become aware of what we are actually feeling. Overreacting comes when we have been feeling something for quite a while but have been ignoring all the signs!
I know I am the queen at doing this! I so often say "I'm fine!" and put a smile on my face when inside I'm just ready to explode! Or I tell myself I "shouldn't" feel a certain way and so I pretend I don't but really...I do!
By not paying attention to what we feel or masking what we feel we take the first step down the painful road of overreaction and misunderstanding!
When I feel frustrated or tired or anxious or any of the more uncomfortable emotions I tend to hear what people say in a much more negative way, often as an accusation or an attack. And then of course all too often I tend to accuse and attack back which only makes everything worse!
Another important part of limiting the number of times we overreact is to actually let people know how we feel without taking it out on them!
A simple statement like "I am feeling frustrated right now because I don't feel heard." is so much better than yelling "You never listen to me!!"
By sharing our feelings and emotions we can actually build closeness and trust in the relationship as well as give ourselves the opportunity to acknowledge them and then let them dissipate!
So the next time you feel like you're about to blow your top, take a moment to step back and ask yourself:
What am I really feeling?
When did I start feeling this way?
And how can I communicate my feelings in a way that is helpful, not harmful?