So often throughout the course of our daily lives we come into situations that cause us to contend with a turmoil of emotion that inevitably ends in a tongue-lashing by ourselves toward those around us. Colleagues, friends, and even family members end up on the receiving end of our anger and frustration, blame gets laid at their feet, and conflict ensues.
Often, we are met with seemingly unjustified resistance from them when this happens, and then most often these “others” try and turn it back on us, claiming that it is us that’s being unreasonable and unjustified.
This of course only serves to anger us more and the vicious cycle of argumentative conflict only gets progressively worse, often with both parties leaving the situation feeling abused and battered, even angrier, and sometimes even betrayed.
In the worst cases, such conflicts erupt into full-blown violence, maybe even death.
To put the cherry on top, it may then often also be the case that such outbursts sprout from seemingly petty things, like your spouse consistently forgetting to put the cap back on the toothpaste tube, or leaving the toilet-seat up when you prefer it down. Stupid things like that. There are many such examples in our everyday lives.
We then wonder why it had to happen in the first place. How something so simple could erupt into something so dramatic.
But what if there was a simple and effective way for us to dramatically reduce the frequency of these conflicts? What if there was a way to handle the little petty arguments that happen regularly, in a sure fire way to dramatically lessen their impact, and get resolved much more efficiently?
Well the good news is, there is. By looking inward first.
Yes, I know this may seem counter-intuitive, perhaps even absurd. So often the justification for our own frustration with the situation seems so glaringly obvious that it boggles the mind that we might have some part to play in it ourselves.
The truth is, in every argument you’re involved in, you do have a part to play, whether it’s your fault or not. That part revolves around how you handle it.
So how do you handle it?
Well, as I said before, by looking inward first.
So here’s the simple method. Whenever you are faced with that irritating situation next, whatever it is that irks you, and when you feel that irritation or frustration bottling up from within, do a reality check with yourself first, before taking matters to the seemingly obvious cause of the irritation. Halt yourself.
Before laying blame on anything or anyone outside of yourself, first do this:
HALT! Ask yourself, “Am I:
H – Hungry
A – Angry
L – Lonely
T – Tired
Then address the issue you found that’s causing the problem state above first… So often your own feelings of irritation or frustration at a seemingly petty (or perhaps not so petty) situation can already be lessened by simply paying attention first to your own most basic needs.
Are you hungry?
Have a bite to eat first, before charging off to confront the person about the irksome issue. No need for a full blown five-course meal though. Just have a quick snack that you can make yourself in a few minutes. Often the simply act of doing this for yourself first, then sitting down and tending to this need, provides enough time for the initial reactionary feeling to subside, lessening its impact on your own inner turmoil. Then, of course, it also stills the lingering irritation of actually being hungry, freeing up your mind and allowing you to more clearly focus on the issue at hand in a calm, rational manner.
Are you angry?
Of course you’re angry. But what this refers to is to check first if you’re not perhaps already angry about something else, removed from this particular thing that triggered you in this instant. Often we carry within us lingering, suppressed anger about, for instance, not having enough money available to buy that fancy sports car, or not getting that promotion when you feel you deserved it. Usually this other thing looms substantially larger in the background than having to face an opened toothpaste tube leaking paste all over the basin.
Such lingering anger results in an overall more irritable mood, causing the little daily irritations to feel like it’s simply adding pressure, little by little, until the pressure is simply too much and the volcano erupts.
But knowing that there’s an underlying issue may often help in dealing with the smaller insignificant issues better by allowing one to view it within the right context. It might just enable you to talk to your spouse more clearly about what actually bothers you, instead of lashing out at them for simply not understanding the stresses you have to go through. Heck, you may even realize that you have an issue you need to address, one that you may not have realized before.
Are you lonely?
Yes, with society at large gradually moving toward a more segregated, fractured existence, loneliness more and more becomes a real problem for a species that is adapted to live socially. Humans are, by nature, social creatures, needing regular contact with others in a meaningful manner to maintain peak levels of health and productivity. Telecommuters, Stay-at-home moms (or dads), Entrepreneurs working from home, lab-workers, etc – all of them suffer from decreased regular contact with other people. Even introverts who generally enjoy their own space and freedom to work alone (I’m an introvert myself) need the ocytocin-boosting effects of human contact to maintain peak levels of performance.
So, call that friend. Call your mom. Call your spouse/partner/lover. Visit them. Talk to others. Maybe just get up from your seat and walk down the office hall to speak to the cute girl at reception for a few minutes. It’s important.
Just having a few minutes every day of non-work/-pressure related human contact can go a very long way toward clearing your head and being able to deal with your major stresses more efficiently, and make the minor irritations all but disappear.
Are you tired?
Perhaps you just need a quick nap.
Maybe you stayed up much later last nite trying to finish that report that’s due today and you’re simply not firing on all cylinders today, then suddenly the guy in the cubicle next to you starts munching loudly on a packet of potato chips. You feel like you want to murder him. But really, you just need more sleep.
It may not always be possible in a corporate work setting, but if you can, just get up, set your clock for 30 minutes in advance and take a quick power nap. It’s been scientifically proven that a sleep period of between 20-25 minutes can be just enough to pick you up out of that slump you’re feeling from a few hours of missed sleep the previous night. No more, and no less.
35 minutes or more in to sleep, your brain starts to move from light sleep into deeper phases of sleep that can cause you to feel even worse if woken up halfway into them. And few people are able to fall into proper sleep in less than 5 or 10 minutes. So go and lie down, set your clock for 30 minutes, and close your eyes. This will give you enough time to settle into the nap, slow your breathing, and catch a good 20 or so minutes of hearty light sleep.
If you want to boost the effect of the power nap even more, have a coffee or some similarly caffeinated drink just before your nap. By the time your nap is over, the caffeine will be absorbed thoroughly and you can take full advantage of it’s beneficial effects. It will also have the added benefit of ensuring you don’t over-extend your nap, making it easier to rise again on fire when the 30 minutes is over.
I am a strong believer in this method as I’ve seen it help me countless times. I’m a serial night-owl, often having to contend with 5 or less hours of sleep the previous night. Catching a quick power-nap halfway through the day when the slump hits almost always seems to pull me through.
Often times you’ll find that doing this simple “reality check” on yourself before launching yourself into full conflict mode will work wonders for providing just enough time and space for those initial feelings of frustration and irritation to subside, while at the same time you’ll know that you loved yourself enough to pay attention to the little things for yourself. Heck, often you may not even feel the need to take on your spouse anymore and simply, lovingly, wipe up the spilled toothpaste and put the cap back on.
Then, you can address the cause of the minor trouble with that person when next you see him or her, in a much more calm and clear-headed manner. They may even thank you for bringing it to their attention.
Integrate this little method as a regular technique you use throughout your day, and you may just find that life, suddenly, doesn’t seem so overwhelming anymore.