After recounting a disagreement with an old girlfriend, I realized my friend’s advice was right on the money.

“Don’t react.  Clarify.”, she said. 

It was a humbling moment.  After all, I’m supposed to know this stuff.

But it drove home just how emotionally charged these interactions can be.

One wrong word can set off even the calmest of guys.

What sets me off?

Criticism and rejection – not so much a comment or two but a pattern of either, which I usually take, at first. 

Then, it builds.

Until one cross word triggers a snarky comment.

My problem is I let it build.

Then a criticism feels like an attack.

My body releases cortisol and my neocortex, the reasoning part of my brain, shuts down.

I just react.

But there’s another way to respond to conflict.

I can take a timeout.

I can take a deep breath and then a second. 

The cortisol production will diminish.

I can put my phone down and not send an irritated text.

If I am face to face with my partner, I can excuse myself for a minute and get some air.

Anger tends to be an indulgent emotion for men – that is, it’s habitual and distracts from other emotions.

In my case, my anger was camouflaging my hurt.

Anger tends to be way more accessible to men than other emotions.

But if I take a timeout, I can reduce the anger and think rationally.

Rather than reacting.

Now I can pick up the phone again and re-read the message.

I can call her and make sure I understand her comment.

Does any of this resonate for you?

When you react to conflict, you let the other person determine your response and behavior.

But if you can be more mindful, you can regulate yourself better. 

With reactive behavior, you focus on what the other person is doing to you.

But with mindfulness, you look at yourself to understand what YOU are doing to you.

This self-awareness lets you slow down your responses and gain conscious control of your actions.

What can you do to be less reactive the next time your girl pisses you off?

Just some practice at cooling down can save you a ton of trouble in your relationships.

You can do this.

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