A few days ago, we looked at the phenomenon of social burnout that all of us experience at some level. It can lead to a lot of stress and irritation that, even if dealt with at the moment, can sometimes linger and find its way into future interactions – maybe when we least expect it!
We hope that last week’s message gave you some pointers that helped lessen the stress for you. In this message, we’ll talk about the (mostly) inevitable result of all that stress and burnout – when things go off the rails.
Try as you might to keep your calm and be at peace, someone may say something that sets you off. As we discussed in the Holler Days: Sibling Rivalries article a couple of weeks back, there are certain people and circumstances that can just push those buttons before we even know it happened.
While you may not be able to prevent that from happening, you can be ready for it when it does. That’s what today’s message is all about.
When someone steps all over your last nerve, how do you usually respond? Or would “react” be a better word for what happens? Take heart, most of us react rather than respond, because that’s how we’ve always done it. Take this opportunity to consider a different, more compassionate way that doesn’t have to result in a gut-wrenching argument.

1. Prepare yourself mentally for the times you know could be conversational danger zones.
Maybe it’s preparations for the big family meal, or when your mom casually mentions that your pecan pie didn’t taste quite like the old family recipe she gave you. Either way, you KNOW something is going to happen, so it’s important to KNOW how you will respond: Breathe, smile, and respond with a neutral tone, using your Safe Conversations skills to acknowledge but not engage in the conflict. Essentially, don’t give in to habitual defensive reactions – take control of the interaction, and turn their negativity into a positive, actionable response. Perhaps something like, “Hey mom, yeah, I tasted a difference, too. You’ve been making this pie for years now, so it makes sense you’d notice if it doesn’t taste like you’re used to. Can you tell what the difference could be? I’d love to get it as close as possible to the original if I can.”

2. Try redirecting and connecting.
If your thoughtful response doesn’t nip the conflict in the bud, then try redirecting the conversation and finding a connection point: “OK mom, sounds like you’re not sure what tasted different but just that it did, did I get that? Ok. Maybe you and I can bake one together for the next holiday and you can show me how you do it.”

3. If they insist on starting a conflict, simply take the direct approach.
Sometimes, there will be no stopping someone’s efforts to engage. When all else fails, the straight-up truth usually does the trick. “So, maybe baking a pie together isn’t what you had in mind, and that’s ok. We’re stuck with this pie for today, so maybe you’d prefer a piece of pumpkin pie.”
The key is always this: You are not a victim of your emotions – you have a choice of how to respond. Doing so with Safe Conversations improves your odds of having a conversation that ends well. You already know how that same conversation will go if you DON’T do it differently this time.
When things go off the rails, your response can make all the difference. Let Safe Conversations help you keep the Temper Train on track!

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