Three Questions to Ask Your Irritated Self

So someone's pushed your buttons with a flippant comment or unconstructive criticism. You're hell-bent on keeping it together, but that double-trouble feeling of anger and emotion washes over you.

Dear Self,

I recognise that in the midst of this conversation, things have become a bit heated, maybe even nasty. We're working to hold it together, but the hot tears are rising.

The adrenalin is coursing. I can feel the barrage of names we'd love to call our dear jerk colleague who's making us feel so uncomfortable.

I realise too, that we'll mentally replay this unpleasant exchange over and over, till we've worked ourselves up into such a froth, that we'll have an anxious response to this person going forward, even if it's just in the lunch queue.

There must be a better way. Lets find it.



So someone's pushed your buttons with a flippant comment or unconstructive criticism. You're hell-bent on keeping it together, but that double-trouble feeling of anger and emotion washes over you.

Your inner Yoda seems to have vacated your logical mind.

For moments like this - and we all have them - I've had this Michael Neill quote tattooed to my frontal lobe:

"Frustration isn't feedback about our life, but about the quality of our thinking at a particular moment."

The good news is, your life doesn't suck. You don't suck. Only the quality of your thinking sucks in that particular moment.

When you slide into poor quality thinking after such an exchange, here are 3 helpful questions to ask yourself:

1. What can I do when there's nothing I can do?

One of the signs that you've landed in poor quality thinking is that you feel victimised, like you have no choices. Ask yourself this spectacularly simple question:

When there's nothing I can do, what can I do?

Even if it takes asking a few times till you calm down (those rage-filled fantasies are usually not for the best), you'll see that your inner Yoda hasn't really done a runner.

If you're still struggling with this question, I turn it over to Oprah's coach, Martha Beck:

"If you think there is no action you can perform in your current circumstances that will increase the supply of love in the world, you are believing a lie. At the very least, you always have the option to offer yourself kindness and understanding. That alone can increase the supply of love in the world."

2. What would my Best Self do?

Once you're out of the poor-thinking quicksand, with your Inner Yoda firmly at the helm again, make choices based on the outcome you'd like. I don't mean giving your colleague a high-5 (in the face, with a chair).

I mean tapping into your higher consciousness to create a solution that'll have a great outcome.

Your Inner Yoda is always at the ready - or if Yoda doesn't resonate, call on your inner Richard Branson, inner Elvis or whoever lights you up.

Or just ask the question: What do I know, in my heart of hearts, that is the best thing to do now?

Watch what emerges.

3. What do I want to create out of this experience?

My coaching clients might reluctantly agree that these situations provide gold-dust opportunities to practice not letting others' behaviour pull you down. But there's a trick.

Recall Eleanor Roosevelt's spot-on quote: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

If you notice that you're feeling upset or offended by someone's behaviour, you have a choice. You can be a victim to it, or you can choose to keep the responsibility on the person being offensive.

This is a technique I learned from Steve Chandler a few weeks ago at a coaching intensive - read more in his book Reinventing Yourself.

When we are in victim mode (woe be mine...) our emotions seem to be caused by other people (the "jerk" pulling our chain).

Then it's easy to go down unhelpful thought spirals:

I'm not appreciated.

I'm not good enough.

They don't pay me enough for this bull hickey.

Steve Chandler says our feelings are caused by our own thoughts, but only always.

What can you create out of such an unpleasant exchange? Learning. Learning to notice your feelings when you tell yourself you're offended, and to turn the thinking around. Put responsibility back onto the person behaving badly.

Don't consent to going down the unhelpful thought spiral. No good outcomes ever came from there.

The quality of your thinking determines the quality of your life, but only always.

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