How Not to be A Jerk

How Not to be A Jerk

Perhaps it’s because I am a therapist who specializes in anxiety, BUT I find that many people are overwhelmed nowadays in our culture.

All of the choices, information and expectations that we face can take its toll on our ability to stay calm and collected throughout the day, even once we arrive home.

What most people don’t realize is how the stress we feel from this barrage of information and responsibilities can spread into how we communicate and feel emotions.

Have you ever snapped at a family member or friend when they have done absolutely nothing wrong, all because you are having a bad day or feel overwhelmed? And then continued to defend yourself or justify your behavior once that person gets upset?

Or perhaps you have felt slighted by someone so you lash back to get revenge, or to make a point? You are sure to give them a piece of your mind, and as a result, you take part in the escalation of conflict? I would be lying if I didn’t say I have done both of these things!

The right course of action to take would be to apologize in the moment, own that you were wrong, and adjust your behavior accordingly.

Unfortunately, that’s not how this situation usually goes. The stress and anxiety we experience in this scenario can make us feel justified in our actions, and assist us in further putting up a wall so we don’t have to admit our guilt.

Here are some suggestions to improve:

The first step to help us own our actions is to identify when we are doing something hurtful, rude or inconsiderate. 

This is probably the most difficult part of the “ownership” process because we have to admit we were wrong.  It doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but for most people, it is. It does not make you weak or bad to admit you made a mistake. Quite the contrary, it is brave and will make those around you feel more safe to express their own feelings and faults.

Once you are able to see the opportunities in which you may better your communication, you can begin catching yourself in the moment.

Perhaps it is a look on someone’s face who is receiving the aggression, or a specific tone, word or phrase you use that seems to weave throughout these less positive methods of communication.

Admit to yourself it is happening, and take a time out to reassess how you would like to respond instead of just automatically reacting how you have in the past. 

To take ownership at this point might sound like, “I had a very stressful day. I know that I tend to take it out on others, and don’t want you to be on the receiving end. That wouldn’t be fair to you. I think I just need a few minutes to calm down and then we can talk.”

This is about stopping BEFORE things escalate, which is very difficult. Be open to other’s suggestions or input to further your insight, instead of getting defensive.

By continuously catching yourself, and making improvements in taking ownership of your behavior, it should alleviate the stress in the home or relationship that existed before.

Apologies become lest frequent, and those hurtful words that can often stay with us won’t continue to pile up.

Success in this area should also reduce overall stress levels that rise as a result of conflict, defensiveness, and denial.

Admitting we don’t do everything right and owning our flaws shows humility and strength all at once, and nurtures openness and security in relationships. Try it out!