One of the most common requests from my psychology coaching clients is to help them find healthier ways of expressing their emotions. For Example: Anger That said, it’s not as simple as becoming “more calm” or “less explosive”. The first step in transformation and lasting change is assessment. The Kübler-Ross Model provides insight: BELOW THE […]Anger is a sign that something needs to change. — Thriving Under Pressure
5 Strategies for Reviving Your Relationship
The couple sat on the couch facing me, sad and sullen and talking about divorce. They seemed to have many reasons to stay together: a toddler son, a newly purchased house, a history stretching back to their high school days. So why was the wife insisting on divorce?
“He bought an Alexa device when he knew I didn’t want such a thing in the house.”
On one level, it seemed so frivolous. On another, it made perfect sense. This was a wife feeling that, again and again, her preferences and opinions had been ignored.
While some couples part in the wake of a major crisis — an infidelity, domestic abuse — others split after a series of small cruelties that can add up to emotional estrangement.
What are the little cruelties that add up to marital distress? They’re as unique as the couples involved.
There was the couple I met when I arrived at their spacious home to interview the man, a prominent doctor, for a magazine article. His wife welcomed me warmly, brought coffee and was returning with a plate of pastries when her husband said brusquely “Just set that plate down and get out! We have work to do.” Her face burned with humiliation and anger as she silently withdrew from the room. The doctor didn’t miss a beat, turning on the charm for the interview as I sat there stunned.
Then there were the couples who came for therapy:
The wife who never let her husband forget that she thought she had “married down” and who corrected every statement he made — incorrect or not — with a running commentary on what he was saying, questioning both his accuracy and intelligence.
The husband who belittled every interest and pursuit of his wife as “stupid and insignificant” and fondly called her an “airhead.” When challenged by others, he would smile and say “Aw, she knows that I love her!”
The husband who escalated ordinary disagreements to major crises by giving his wife the silent treatment for days at a time.
The wife who had a habit of blaming her husband every time anything went amiss — from a balky computer to a rained out picnic — with one phrase: “Can’t you do anything right?”
And there was the husband who snapped at his wife whenever he had a bad day at work and then wondered why she tended to keep her distance.
Of course many of these “little cruelties” are not little at all and some indicate larger problems within the marital relationship. But the fact is that casual cruelty, careless words and thoughtless actions can add considerably to marital tensions.
Working with couples, I often stress the importance of being kind to each other, even when depressed, mad, exasperated, disappointed or otherwise challenged. So much more is possible if disagreements are resolved amicably, if spouses are as courteous to each other as they are to good friends. Some people talk to their spouses in a way they wouldn’t dare with friends.
“Yeah,” one husband in therapy told me. “If I talked to my friends the way I talk to my wife…well, I wouldn’t because it would hurt their feelings.”
And he thought his wife’s feelings weren’t hurt? He squirmed a bit. “Well, she’s my wife. She should understand that I need to blow off steam. That’s just the way I am.”
Just the way I am.
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard that in couples counseling as a way to justify casual cruelty. It’s a way to say “I don’t intend to change” or “Pleasing you isn’t worth any discomfort on my part.”
It’s a relationship dead-end.
So what can you do to change a relationship headed downhill?
Think before you speak. Is that “just kidding!” comment or barbed humor likely to hurt your spouse? Is that casual aside or that verbal victory worth the cost to your relationship? Consider that it’s more important to be kind than to be relentlessly right.
Remember that your spouse is — or could be — your dearest friend. So treat him or her that way. If you wouldn’t say or do what you’re about to do to a dear friend — why in the world would you say or do that to your spouse?
Change established patterns. This is as necessary for the victim as well as the perpetrator. As long as you don’t speak up, your spouse has little incentive to change.
Eradicate hierarchical thinking in your relationship. Get over yourself. Those married to people they consider beneath them in social status, intelligence or education may not only inflict considerable pain and hurt on their spouses, but also miss the joy of realizing the spouse’s unique strengths and talents. Growing up poor or middle class instead of rich doesn’t mean a person lacks class. The absence of a college or professional degree is not an indication that a person lacks insight or intelligence (and the acquisition of such a degree is no guarantee that a person is insightful or wise). Besides, there are many kinds of intelligence. In real life, emotional intelligence may far exceed intellectual ability in becoming a successful human being.
Don’t minimize those little things. Maybe they’re not so little to your spouse. Maybe the accumulated weight of small hurts, flashes of anger, and small betrayals is adding up to a big problem.
After all, it’s the small things, the casual, passing, little cruelties that can erode love and good will.
And it’s the small moments of connection and caring, of thoughtfulness and of kindness, one after another after another, that can help love to grow and flourish.
In marriage and in life, those small things can make a huge difference.
The fear of intimacy happens for many reasons: low self-esteem, trust issues, episodes of anger, avoidance of physical contact or trouble forming a close relationship.
It’s hard to scroll through your social media feeds without being bombarded with motivational quotes. Bonus points if they are spelled out on a letter board.
Good vibes only. Choose happiness. Find the rainbow in the rain.
As a psychologist (and as a human), these quotes kind of irk me. They make us think that life should be all roses and rainbows; we just need to choose the right state of mind. And, by extension, if you are struggling, you aren’t trying hard enough. You just need to change your mindset.
The problem is, life isn’t all roses and rainbows. We don’t get to experience the good without the bad. As mindfulness instructor Jon Kabat Zinn says, life is about “full catastrophe living.” We must embrace what life brings us and learn how to experience the full range of human emotions, even when it’s not so pretty.
A 2016 study found that expressing negative emotions is adaptive and is associated with improved psychological health and adjustment. Conversely, avoiding negative feelings can make you feel even worse. Barbara Held, a psychology professor at Bowdoin College, calls this “the tyranny of the positive attitude.” In a 2016 Newsweek article, she explains that our culture has little tolerance for those who aren’t all smiles and sunshine all the time.
There is an expectation that people should always look on the bright side of adversity and be grateful for the positives in a difficult situation. This attitude is a double hitter for people going through a difficulty; first, you feel bad about whatever the thing is that is making you feel bad, and then you feel guilty or defective for not focusing on the positives and keeping an upbeat attitude. In other words, we feel bad for feeling bad.
As a therapist and an eating disorder specialist, I spend a lot of time helping clients identify and welcome in the full range of emotional experiences. In this “good vibes only” culture, so many of us have become disconnected from our emotions. We try to keep away feelings of anger, sadness, fear, jealousy, and disappointment. Rather than feeling happy all the time, this leaves us feeling numb. We live our lives in fast-forward, keeping ourselves busy every waking moment, so we never have to actually be with our thoughts or feel our feelings.
What would it be like to feel your feelings? To be OK not being OK? To experience discomfort and trust that you have the resilience to withstand it and come through the other side. This way of approaching life may not have the same letterboard appeal as “good vibes only,” but I think there is real power to bringing authenticity into our heavily filtered lives.
Coifman, K.G., Flynn, J.J. & Pinto, L.A. Motiv Emot (2016) 40: 602. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-016-9553-y
1. People tend to be happier when they are kept busy, as this prevents them from thinking about the negative things in life.
2. People with low self-esteem tend to humiliate others.
3. Intelligent people tend to have less friends than the average person. The smarter the person is, the more selective they become.
4. Optimistic beliefs about the future can protect people from physical and mental illness.
5. 68% of the people suffer from Phantom Vibration Syndrome, the feeling that one’s phone is vibrating when it’s not.
6. People are more honest when physically tired. This is why people confess things during late night conversations.
7. Happiness, anger, sadness, fear, disgust, and surprise are the six emotions that are universally expressed.
8. Religious practices, like prayer and attending services, is associated with lower levels of psychological distress.
9. Convincing yourself you slept well tricks your brain into thinking it did.
10. Creative people tend to get bored easily as they can’t work on a similar work type for a longer time.
11. Singing reduces feelings of depression and anxiety.
12. Being with positive and happy people keeps you happier.
Tantrums are sudden outburst of childish rage or temper. They involve intense emotions like that of anger, loss, frustration, and disappointment which can result in a child crying loudly, throwing things, biting, kicking, or head banging. Interestingly, they are quite common among children of 1-4 years of age, and almost every child goes through them. Tantrums are actually a child’s way of dealing with an unpleasant or frustrating situation. Temper tantrums in toddlers are often a result of frustration. Since a child of 2-3 years has limited vocabulary to express how he or she is exactly feeling and often have difficulty in finding a solution to a problem that he or she encounters; this leads to a feeling of frustration and anger and is often expressed in the form of tantrums. No matter how common tantrums are, they can pose a huge challenge for parents and often cause great distress to them. However, if dealt properly tantrums can very well be prevented and managed when they happen. Knowing the reason behind your child’s tantrums can help you prevent the sudden outbursts. Some kids are naturally more prone to temper tantrums due to temperamental issues; they are more sensitive and get easily upset; also, stress, hunger, and tiredness can also lead the kids to throw tantrums. Additionally, sometimes kids find themselves in situations that are beyond their coping levels, situations that can be emotionally overwhelming. Here are a few ways to deal with and manage your child’s tantrums:
- Stay calm: It may be easier said than done, to remain calm when you find yourself in the middle of your child’s emotional outburst—when he or she start crying loudly, kicking, biting, throwing things at you. You are bound to react, but the key to managing tantrums, being a parent, is remaining as calm as possible. Reacting with an angry outburst will only make the situation worse. Speak slowly in a calm composed manner. As a thumb rule, if you see your child yelling or crying loudly, speak as softly and in a voice as low as possible. Do not try to reason with child as it is very late once a tantrum has started.
- Acknowledge the emotions: Very small children throwing tantrum mostly don’t know how to express their emotions and they don’t even know how to label each and every emotion they go through. When your children throw a tantrum help them acknowledge their emotions. If you see that your child is throwing tantrum as a way to express anger, tell him or her, “I know you are angry or upset.”
- Allow them to choose: Most of the time a toddler throws a tantrum over things that involve a sense of control. In situations where your child wants to assert his or her own choice especially over issues such as what to eat or wear, it is better to allow your child a little bit of control. Let your child decide what he or she wants to eat or wear or which toy he or she wants to bring along. Give them a chance to decide by giving them two or more options. Don’t make a big deal out of your child’s choice of a weird food combination or if he or she decides to wear some bizarre clothing.
- Appreciate good behavior: Find instances when your child behaves in a calm manner in a situation that would have normally caused a tantrum and praise your child effusively—give a pat on their back or hug. Tell him or her “you did wonderful!” This will help your child understand the behavior that is appreciated.
- Maintain a routine: It is important to follow a routine. Sudden change in activity sometimes makes children upset and restless. Play-time, lunch/dinner-time, sleep, everything should follow a routine. If you are about to introduce a change in the routine activity or schedule, let your child know five to ten minutes in advance. Say for example, your child is playing, and suddenly you realize that you have guests coming in half an hour, tell your child that he/she has five minutes of more play-time left today as you are expecting guests. Also ensure, especially in case the child is a toddler, that he or she is getting appropriate rest and sleep and is well fed. Sometimes hunger, fatigue, and sleeplessness may make little kids irritable and ultimately trigger a tantrum.
- Be consistent with rules: You need to establish some rules early on and follow them consistently. Rules work as a guide to what behavior is accepted and what is not.
- Build emotional vocabulary: Toddlers often have limited vocabulary especially when it comes to communicating their feelings. Help them learn emotional vocabulary by finding situations where you label their emotions. You can even engage in role-play of emotions with your child to build his or her emotional vocabulary.
- Whether to ignore or not: While many suggest that ignoring a tantrum will stop it. But this is a tricky matter. Imagine you are upset or feeling low and everyone around you starts ignoring you, how would you feel. Same is the case with children. A tantrum, as we know, is an emotional outburst. Suppose your child is upset because his or her sibling took away his or her favorite toy, and you, instead of addressing the issue, ignore his or her displeasure—imagine how frustrating it can be for the child. In a long run, this tactic of ignoring will not only be futile but is also going to set up a bad example as far as the child’s responsiveness to other’s plight is concerned. Your child will learn that whenever people are upset it is better to ignore them. Or, if you feel upset don’t reach out to the loved ones as they are going to ignore you. Thus, when your child throws a tantrum, it is better to go to your child, give him/her a hug and acknowledge his or her feelings.
In cases when you are not able to reach out to your child right away, wait till your child calms down and then hug the child and tell him/her that you were aware of their emotional outburst and now that they are calm, you can help them or comfort them. Most importantly, if you do feel that, in a certain situation, responding to your child’s tantrum will only encourage the child for worse, make sure, while ignoring the tantrum, that your child is safe and well within your visibility so that you can observe his or her reaction.
How to influence people by listening with your senses, not just your brain.
When teaching leaders communication skills, I often ask, “Do you know how people feel when you enter the room?” After a few responses, I ask, “Do you know how they feel when you leave?” No matter how well you thought through the words you shared, the way you listened to them will make or break your ability to change how they feel and think.
Most listening is designed to gain information that will fulfill your needs. How often do you listen to people for these purposes:
- To collect data: You listen to know what to say or do next. You listen to formulate your argument, to compare your perspective to theirs, or to fill in what you think you are missing.
- To give an answer or solve a problem: You listen to know what advice to give when they quit talking.
- To obey protocol: You listen because you should, not because you want to.
Listening from the neck up
When you listen for information to formulate your response, you grab only some of their words. They expect you to hear more, and to understand how they feel even though it is hard to accurately decipher facial expressions.1
Listening while thinking annoys most people. Even if you care about them, they won’t feel connected to you in the conversation.
Listen to receive, not analyze
When you choose to be present and connect with someone, you listen beyond your analytical brain. You suspend analysis. You take in and accept their words, expressions, and emotions as elements of their experience. You acknowledge the story they offer as valid from their current point of view. You don’t insert your opinions or judgments. People feel heard and will listen to you in return.
You receive what people offer with the purpose:
- To connect: You listen to establish a feeling of connection.
- To let the person know you value them: You listen so people feel you care what they think even when your perspective differs from theirs.
- To explore, learn, and grow together: You listen with curiosity to learn from the amazing human in front of you. You enjoy when the conversation takes you somewhere new.
Receiving is an active, not passive act even though you suspend your thoughts. You activate your nervous system, receiving sensory input with your heart and gut. With sensory awareness, you can receive and discern what is going on with others beyond the words they speak. They also feel safe enough to openly talk to you.2 You can find a visualization on how to open all three processing centers of your nervous system — your head, heart, and gut — on this site.
Listening with your senses
Sensory awareness includes an inward awareness of your reactions in a conversation. Your reactions might be in response to what they tell you. You also might be reacting to what you energetically receive from them.3 You can sense people’s desires, disappointments, frustrations, hopes, and doubts even when they have trouble articulating these experiences themselves.
Being sensitive doesn’t mean being wishy-washy. It means you are aware of what is going on around you on a sensory level and can sense when people are conflicted or distressed. Most people claim their pets have this ability to sense their emotional needs. Humans can receive these emotional vibrations as well. We just don’t pay attention to them.
You were likely taught to ignore your sensory awareness as a part of your conditioning as a child. Were you ever told, “You shouldn’t take things so personally,” or, “You should toughen up?” These admonishments led you to rely on your cognitive brain for listening.
I’m often asked if venturing into the land of emotions is risky, especially at work. I hear, “I can’t allow people’s emotions to sway me.”
When you don’t allow people to get under your skin, you aren’t experiencing them fully. You are disconnected internally and externally. You put up a wall between yourself and the people you are with.
You might feel their stress, anxiety, and anger. Don’t let these emotions sit in your body.4 Empathy occurs when you receive what another is feeling using sensory awareness, but you need to let these sensations pass through you.5 If you feel their emotion, relax your body and let the emotion subside as you return to being fully present with the person you are with.
There is also emotional energy vibrating between you.6 You can grasp when they want you to back off and give them space. You sense when they are impatient to move on or if they want to take more time. You can tell when they just want to be heard or acknowledged, instead of getting your advice. Share what you notice, and then listen to their response.
You may feel vulnerable when you open yourself to receive what people express. This vulnerability is a strength. Alan Alda said, “Real listening is a willingness to let the other person change you.”7 They feel connected when you interact. They enjoy being with you. They are more open to changing their minds when you receive first and then share your ideas.
5 steps for building sensory awareness in conversations
- Silence your brain: When you quiet your chattering brain, you clear your sensory channels.
- Let go of knowing: Instead of thinking you know how the person will react, try curiosity. Unfortunately, the better you know someone, the more likely you quit being curious. Can you release knowing what people will say? You might be surprised.
- Release the need to be right: Ask questions to understand their perspective. Once they feel heard, you can say you have a different perspective. They will be more willing to hear your point of view.
- Listen with your heart and gut as well as your head: Before your conversation, open your heart with feelings of compassion or gratitude. Then, open your gut by feeling your courage.
- Test your instinct: When you feel an emotional sensation, share what you think they might be feeling, such as anger, frustration, sadness, or yearning. Accept their response. If you are wrong, your guess could still help them better understand themselves and feel you cared enough to understand.
Can you open yourself to fully receive what people offer? They will be more willing to hear your ideas and possibly change their minds if you do.
1 Alice Park. Emotions May Not Be So Universal After All, Time.com, March 6, 2014.
2 Shari M. Gellar and Stephen W. Porges. “Therapeutic Presence: Neurophysiological Mechanisms Mediating Feeling Safe in Therapeutic Relationships,” Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 2014, Vol. 24, No. 3, 178–192.
3 Daniel J. Siegel, The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are. New York: The Guilford Press; 2nd edition, 2012.
4 Agata Blaszczak-Boxe, “Too much emotional intelligence is a bad thing.” Scientific American Mind, March 1, 2017.
5 Marcia Reynolds, “Can You Have Too Much Empathy? When empathy breaks trust.” PscychologyToday.com, April 15, 2017.
6 Rollin McCraty, “The Energetic Heart: Bioelectromagnetic Interactions Within and Between People.” Chapter published in: Clinical Applications of Bioelectromagnetic Medicine, edited by P. J. Rosch and M. S. Markov. New York: Marcel Dekker, 2004: 541-562.
7 Alan Alda, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I’ve Learned. New York: Random House, 2005, p. 160.
Psychopaths exert a strange allure. The fictional psychopath has been a staple of film and television for decades, and the popularity of true-crime podcasts and streaming-service documentary series suggests that our fascination with psychopathy is on the increase.
A curiosity about the psychological precursors of manipulative or violent behavior can be laudable: If we understand psychopathy we will be better able to address its negative consequences. However, interest in psychopaths often appears to be motivated less by a desire to learn than by a desire for the psychopaths themselves.
In the wake of Netflix’s Ted Bundy Tapes, viewers flooded social media to declare that Bundy — a convicted serial killer — was hot. Cinema, too, is littered with portrayals of sexy psychopaths, played by actors such as Christian Bale (American Psycho), Zac Efron (Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), and Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct).
Why do we find psychopaths so interesting and, in some cases, attractive?
According to new research, it shouldn’t be surprising. A pair of psychologists from Ontario, Canada have suggested that psychopathy may, in fact, be a tactic for attracting sexual partners.
Fake It Till You Make It
Kristopher Brazil of Brock University and Adelle Forth of Carleton University point out that success in relationships is influenced by a person’s attractiveness. A person is judged more attractive if they possess qualities in demand within their pool of potential partners. These qualities can include physical appearance, but also sincerity, honesty, success, and access to resources such as money. People who do not possess these qualities are at a disadvantage in the mating market. Brazil and Forth hypothesize that psychopaths may be motivated to fake attractive qualities in an effort to secure access to partners who would otherwise not be interested.
This hypothesis is bolstered by past research indicating that people high in psychopathy tend to be egocentric, promiscuous, and sexually opportunistic; to be more willing to lie and cheat; and to exhibit a superficial charm and an ability to inhibit emotional “leakage” (giving away one’s true feelings).
To test their theory, Brazil and Forth recruited around 50 young men from a Canadian university. Each man was introduced to a female volunteer (actually a confederate of the researchers). The pair was prompted to discuss what each liked to do on a first date or what they thought was important in a relationship. The conversations were video recorded. Afterward, the men completed a psychopathy survey.
An independent group of around 100 women viewed these videos and rated each man on his desirability as a dating partner. The women were also asked to imagine that each man had expressed a desire to meet up with them, and to record a voicemail for him to arrange a date. Of course, these voicemails were never delivered to the men. Instead, the scientists analyzed the voice for pitch.
Brazil and Forth found that men who scored higher on the psychopathy questionnaire were rated more desirable by women. But why were the psychopaths more attractive? It’s possible they were physically more alluring that the men who scored lower on psychopathy. That’s why the psychologists statistically controlled for the physical attractiveness of the men. Even after discounting the effect of appearance, more psychopathic men were more desirable, which suggests that their greater appeal stems from their non-verbal behavior.
Brazil and Forth also expected that women would raise the pitch of their voices when recording voicemails for men higher in psychopathy, because previous research has indicated that women increase the frequency of their voice pitch (whether consciously or unconsciously) when conversing with attractive men. This hypothesis was not supported, although exploratory analyses suggested that women’s vocal changes might depend on a man’s pattern of psychopathic traits. Women tended to increase the pitch of their voices when recording a message for a man higher in the affective component of psychopathy (shallow emotions, callousness, lack of concern for others) and to lower their pitch in response to men higher in the antisocial component (disregard for authority, poor anger controls). It seems that not all psychopaths are equal, nor equally attractive.
Although it is unlikely that psychopathy is a tactic in the sense that it is a consciously enacted plan—people who exhibit psychopathic tendencies are not able to shed or adopt personality traits at will—Brazil and Forth conclude that their results “suggest that psychopathy in men may enable them to ‘enact’ the desirable qualities women prefer in social and dating encounters.”
It should be noted that psychopathy is a spectrum and that the type of psychopath who ends up as the subject of a Netflix true-crime series is an extreme example. The allure of the everyday garden-variety psychopath of the sort one might find studying at a Canadian university, for instance, may not be all that surprising, especially if such men are are able to simulate a marginally more appealing personality than that which comes naturally.
Brazil and Forth are also at pains to point out that their study only speaks to a possible evolutionary function of psychopathy, but does not seek to excuse or justify the negative behavior of psychopaths.
Brazil, K. J., & Forth, A. E. (in press). Psychopathy and the induction of desire: formulating and testing an evolutionary hypothesis. Evolutionary Psychological Science. doi:10.1007/s40806–019–00213–0
1. Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.
2. There are two things a person should never be angry at, what they can help, and what they cannot.
3. Anger begins with folly, and ends with repentance.
4. Anger cannot be dishonest.
5. Fair peace becomes men; ferocious anger belongs to beasts.
Being bullied has unfortunately become very common these days. But the effects of bullying on a young mind can be quite devastating including poor school performance, anxiety, feelings of loneliness, loss of self-esteem, or even depression. Earlier it was believed that bullying happens only at middle high school, but only recently it has been found that it has become fairly common at primary school levels as well. Name calling, teasing, hitting, isolating the child from the rest of class, use of abusive language, spreading rumours are some of the examples of bullying, and in this new age of social media bullying has taken a new dimension called cyber bullying.
If you suspect that your child is being bullied at school or has become target of cyber bullying it’s vital that you help your child cope or deal with bullying, especially if the child is young and does not have the skills to deal with the bully. First and foremost is to identify whether your child is being bullied or is going through some transitional phase. It becomes even more difficult if the child doesn’t come to you on his or her own to share with you that he or she is being bullied.
1. Look for the signs and talk: If you notice any sudden change in your child’s behavior like skipping school or unwillingness to go to school; if your child becomes recluse all of a sudden and no longer enjoys activities that he or she used to enjoy before, poor performance at school; any visible signs of bruises or injury that the child is not able to explain, these could be signs that something is not right and it’s time to talk to your child. All of these could be signs of your child being bullied. Create a safe space with your child so that he or she feels comfortable and safe in sharing what has been going on. For this you need to become a good listener. Be supportive and stay calm while listening. If your child is indeed being bullied, be very cautious not to blame the child. Make the child understand that there’s nothing wrong with him or her; he or she is not responsible for being bullied; and it’s not his or her fault. Try to boost your child’s confidence as the child might be having doubts about his or her own abilities to handle the situation or defend himself or herself from the bully. Reassure the child that things will be sorted out.
2. Advise the child correctly: No matter how angry you may feel but refrain from advising your child to fight back with bully by bullying. Otherwise, this can often escalate the situation to more violent outbursts. Instead, advise the child to avoid the situations or places where bullying occurs; advise him or her to avoid places where there is no adult supervision; interact with other kids at school; and most importantly, to tell teachers or other adults at the school. You can encourage the child to engage in buddy system, where the child can be accompanied by another child to visit places where bullying is most likely to occur like, hallways, washrooms, locker areas, etc. In the same way, you can encourage your child to do the same for another child who is being bullied.
3. Reassure the child: Sometimes kids think that if they tell someone at home or at school like teacher, bullying will get worse. Give assurance to the child that sharing with parents or teachers at school or some other authority, will not result in more bullying, rather, adults can help the kid deal with the bully or curb bullying. But this does not mean that you, as a parent, should take this lightly, when the child tells that bullying will get worse. You also need to find a way to handle the situation in a way that does not escalate the bullying. Like instead of approaching the bully directly or approaching his or her parents, it is better to inform the authorities at school. Most schools these days have anti-bullying programs.
4. Teach skills to deal with the bully: Most bullies thrive on the reactions of their targets. So teach your child to hold his or her reactions in front of the bully. It is better not to show any reaction to bullying. Hold your anger, tears, and fears as these give the bully power. In many cases, when the target doesn’t show any reaction to bullying, the bully stops on his or her own. Teach your child anger controlling skills (counting to ten, deep breathing, etc.).
5. Assertiveness skills: Help your child learn assertiveness skills. Help him or her practice skills where the child firmly tells the bully to “stop.” You can use role playing techniques where your play the role of the bully and your child practices assertiveness skills and learns to say “No” or “Stop” to the bully and walks away from the bully.
6. Emotional support: The child might be having a lot of emotional difficulties during this time. Try to support your child emotionally by encouraging him or her to share all the emotions that he or she is experiencing. Encourage your child to give outlet to the emotions like anger, fear, frustrations, guilt, or apprehensions, etc. If the child feels like crying, let him or her cry in front of you. Assure him or her that crying is not a sign of being weak; rather it’s a good way to give outlet to all the emotions inside.
7. Believe in your child: This is a time when the child might be experiencing a lot of self-doubts and loss of self-esteem. It is very important to show your faith in the child. Highlight your child’s potentials and positive aspects of his or her personality. Your confidence in your child’s abilities will surely build his or her self-esteem. You can teach your child to focus on the positive aspects of the situation. Teach him or her to take a positive outlook of the situation and take it as a challenge rather than a problem. Assure your child that you are with him/her, no matter what, and that together both of you will definitely win this challenge.
8. Share with the authorities: Last but not the least, encourage your child to inform someone at school, like a teacher or counselor, or you can share the whole situation with school authorities yourself on your child’s behalf. But do ensure that things don’t get worse, like you can visit school when there is least chance of encountering the bully. Also, assure the child that adults have ways to tackle the situation.
Assertiveness is a skill that can be learned, and it is a communication that can help an individual express his or her thoughts, feelings, views, opinions, etc., without being inhibited or aggressive or without disregarding the thoughts, feelings, views, opinions, and ideas of others. The term assertiveness was introduced by Andrew Salter in 1949. Being assertive can help you in both personal as well as professional life. If you are an assertive person, it is likely that you are better able to cope with anger, stress, and other demanding circumstances.
So who is an assertive individual and how is he different from a nonassertive individual? To understand this we have to consider the behavior styles of people in relation to others along a continuum (Dennis Jaffe, 1984), where passive and aggressive behavior lie at each end of the continuum and assertive behavior is right in middle of the two. Passive individuals are too scared to express their thoughts and feelings. Such persons are often shy and surrender to the demands of others in order to feel accepted, especially they find it difficult to say ‘no’. Passive style of behavior is used by people with codependent personality. On the other hand, an aggressive individual often tries to intimidate others and try to gain control of their thoughts, needs, and feelings. Such individuals have complete disregard of others’ feelings. This type of behavior style is often employed by individuals who display Type A behaviors. Now comes assertive style of behavior, which is the preferable style where an individual is able to express his or her thoughts and feelings and protect his or her rights without belittling others’. Such people are more open, considerate, and are tolerant of the feelings of others; also, they have high self-esteem and confidence level.
Assertiveness recognizes that there are legitimate personal rights, which have been described by various therapists and include the following:
- Being able to say no without feeling guilty.
- Having the right to change one’s mind regarding anything
- To ask for help with directions or instructions
- To ask for what you want
- Being able to express or experience feelings
- Right to feel positive under any circumstance
- Right to commit mistakes without feeling embarrassed
- To have one’s own opinion and beliefs
- To object to unfair criticism or treatment
- Being recognized for one’s achievements or contributions
- To be able to take time to develop a response to a question or comment
Not every individual is born assertive. We are often less than assertive in our conduct towards certain people especially of higher authority, such as parents and bosses. However, not being assertive can also occur when we deal with someone by whom we feel intimidated. These can be people of opposite sex, individuals who are perceived as more attractive than us, and every unfamiliar person. Since assertiveness is a skill it can be learned and with repeated practice it can become part of our personality. Following techniques help a great deal in developing assertiveness:
Learn to say ‘No’: Saying ‘no’ is perhaps the most difficult thing to do for some individuals so much so that they put other people’s need before their own. Saying ‘no’ is sometimes considered rude, which is a misconception. Saying ‘yes’ when it is impossible for you to say so can lead to feelings of bitterness and victimization. That is why being able to say ‘no’ when you don’t feel like saying ‘yes’ is a critical attribute if you want to be assertive in life. Equally important is to learn saying ‘no’ without letting the feeling of guilt creep in. Understand and accept your limits and don’t feel bad about them. In case of personal obligations, try to diplomatically refuse your help at that particular instant.
Learn to use ‘I’ statements: Being assertive means being able to express one’s feelings and emotions by using ‘I’ statements. Learn to own your thoughts, feelings, opinions, ideas etc. Also, using ‘I’ statements doesn’t make the other person defensive because ‘I’ seems less accusatory. For example, “you are wrong” seems more attacking than “I disagree.”
Use eye contact: Assertive people are comfortable maintaining eye contact while interacting or expressing their thoughts to others. Lack of eye contact makes a person appear as having less conviction in what he or she is saying. It also indicates dishonesty and insecurity. Start using eye-contact while interacting with a short time interval of about 1-2 seconds and then progress up to 8-10 seconds period. But, beware! just as lack of eye contact indicates lack of confidence continuous staring is often taken as violation of personal space. So try to avoid staring at people.
Improve body language: Being assertive without appropriate body language sends mixed message to the other person. The way you carry your body plays an important role. It is important to have an erect posture with body weight equally distributed between both legs along with good eye contact and tone of voice. The center of gravity should be directly above the feet.
Be open to criticism: Learn to accept criticism positively. You can disagree with the criticism and have the right to convey your difference of opinion but you must do it without getting angry or defensive. Take negative feedback as an opportunity to learn something new or improve yourself.
Disagree peacefully: This skill is employed when one has to express a differing view and want it to be acknowledged too. When ideas and opinions are expressed peacefully so that different viewpoints can be analyzed properly during a conflict or during the process of decision making, such disagreements are considered as healthy disagreements. Being able to remain comfortable during a confrontation is the hallmark of assertiveness.
Practice: Like any other skill, assertiveness too requires practice, a lot of practice, in fact. Stand in front of a mirror and imagine different scenarios where being assertive would be beneficial, and practice your response. Work on your body language, your tone of voice, eye contact, and communication. Use assertive communication like ‘I’ statements, and ‘No’ statements. And remember to start small. At first, try assertiveness skills in situations where the risk is low and then gradually apply them to tougher situations where the stakes are high. For instance, before applying those in work place with your boss, try them out first with your friends or spouse. Evaluate the results so that you can improve your skills. Remember it takes time and practice to learn a new skill whether it’s playing a guitar, or badminton or developing assertiveness.
Just like happiness, fear, and love, etc. anger is an emotion we all have and experience from time to time. Anger is a normal emotion and can even be considered a healthy emotion too. Charles Spielberg a renowned psychologist and a pioneer in the field of anger has defined anger as “an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage.” However, if left unmanaged, anger can have a debilitating impact on your physical and psychological health as well as can ruin your social relationships.
Anger often leads to physiological changes like rise in blood pressure, heart rate, and secretion of hormones like adrenaline and noradrenaline. Anger can originate from internal factors like worrying or ruminating over personal problems as well as from external factors like when you get angry at a particular individual. Keeping in view the widespread impact of anger on the health and social life of an individual it becomes imperative to take measures to keep anger under control.
Pause: In many instances anger is often an impulsive response or like a knee-jerk. Whenever you feel that you are getting angry (look for physiological signs like rise in heart beat, breathing, clenching, etc.), pause for a while, and count to ten or maybe longer, if you feel like. The main idea is to let the moment go. Don’t jump to react on your impulse.
Relaxation: Try relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation. These have been shown to relax the mind and manage anger caused by stress or other internal factors on long term basis as well. Deep breathing especially diaphragmatic breathing has been proven to help. Breathe through your gut, not from chest. While deep breathing you can repeat some calming words like “relax” or “calm down.” You can also incorporate imagery while doing relaxation exercises; imagine a peaceful and calm place; create a mental imagery of any place that helps you stay calm. With repeated practice you can use deep breathing and imagery technique in any situation that calls for anger and thereby manage it.
Exercise/sports: Exercise or engaging in some sort of sports activity is a good way to use up excess energy released during an anger episode. It also helps relieve stress. So, go for a brisk walk, or run, or play some sport whenever you feel your anger escalating. People with chronic anger issue especially benefit if they engage themselves in some regular sporting activity like boxing etc. Exercise and other physical activities have been shown to help release endorphins, the feel-good hormones.
Right communication: One of the worst consequences of anger that can have a long-term impact on our life is how it negatively affects our relationships. It spoils the social life of the individual and in some extreme cases, leaves the person alone without any social support. It hampers marital life as well as work life of the individual. And the main cause is what you communicate to the other person when angry. Anger often makes the person reactive not responsive, so we tend to jump to conclusions that are far from being accurate. It is very important to have the right kind of communication even when you are agitated. So, when angry pause for a while think through the response you are going to give. Don’t just blurt out the word that comes to your mind, think carefully about your response.
Another important tip is to avoid the use of the word “you.” Rather, use “I” statements, these make the other person more responsive than defensive. So avoid sentences like “you never listen to me” use “I feel I am not being heard.” Listening is also a very important part of communication. In order to improve your communication, start working on your listening skills, try to understand what the other person is trying to convey to you. This is especially important if you have anger issues with your spouse or your boss.
Beware of negative self-talk: Be careful of the negative self-talk with words like “never,” “always,” “not fair.” When we use words like these in phrases while being angry, these words tend to justify your anger and do not help in managing anger. Rather, engage in positive self-talk like “this is not the end,” “I can handle it.”
Give your anger an outlet: Keeping anger within can have a long term effect on both your physical as well as psychological health. Suppressing anger can, in fact, worsen the situation. So give your anger a healthy outlet. Start writing journal, give your anger words and write them down, it could be about a situation that really made you mad but you couldn’t get angry, write those feelings in your journal. Whether with your boss or your spouse, journal writing could give a healthy outlet to your anger without damaging your equation with the person concerned. Write down every situation or instance where you wanted to let out your anger but couldn’t.
Humour: Use of humor can help you diffuse that anger bomb. Using imagery with humor can really help ease up the tension. If you have a particular person or situation that triggers anger in you, use of humor can really turn things around. Imagine the coworker at your office that you hate or that brings out the anger, imagine a funny cartoon face e.g., Mickey mouse and put that face over that person, now imagine him sitting in the office doing the work. Use this technique whenever that person’s name comes to your mind. Sometimes make a joke of the situation in your head. Give it a funny turn. But avoid use of sarcasm as it is hurtful and can make the situation worse.
Look after yourself: Eat balanced diet, have good sleep, and avoid alcohol consumption as these factors have been shown to play an important role in anger and its management.
Perspective: Anger, especially when it involves another person, often is the result of perspective. We tend to get in to blame game and thus justify our anger. So it is essential where anger involves another person to take a different perspective on the situation. Place yourself in another person’s situation and try to understand the circumstance from his or her point of view, you might find the solution as well.
Other: Sometimes the best way is to just avoid the situation that triggers your anger. So if you find yourself getting angry while standing in the long line of grocery store then probably you should avoid the time when there’s huge crowd and instead go for shopping when there are less people for shopping. Also, if you feel that you tend to get angry at your kids when you discuss about their day at school during dinner, then avoid the discussion during dinner time.
Seek professional help: If you feel that you are unable to manage your anger on your own, probably it’s time you seek help from a professional counselor or psychologist. Perhaps your anger is deep rooted and results from some underlying issue, or, you might be finding it difficult to stick to the program, so professional help might help with your motivation to stick to the anger management program.