How you react to life dictates how positive your mental health will be. It’s also a fact that the people around us have just as much as an equal impact on our human health. We are social creatures – we strive to interact with others. Unfortunately, those interactions do not always go as planned, and the way you react to others is a game changer when it comes down to how you feel on a daily basis.
I found myself reacting to external stimuli my whole entire life. From the guy who cuts me off on the road and blames me for being in his way, to the rude lady at the checkout counter, it would always get to me. I took things too personally. And five minutes later, I would find myself all stressed out when pretty sure the person who wronged me didn’t even flinch. This in turn would stress me out even more, knowing that I was not at fault in any of this, but left in a far worse position than the other person was. How fair!
And reacting to other people is not limited to the grocery store or the highway. We have to deal with friends and family who we love and respect. This makes things even more complicated. We take friends and family seriously and we take their behaviour towards us quite personally. And this in turn affects our mental health in serious ways. Think disease.
You are not anyone’s psychologist
Ask yourself the following question the next time that you choose to forcefully react to somebody: Are you trying to change them? And do you think that your reaction is the first of its kind directed towards that person, in all their lifetime? Let’s face it – people don’t change. Screaming at the guy who cut you off will probably not prevent that person from doing that again. I can bet you my life that it wasn’t the first time this happened, and it certainly won’t be the last. So think of this as a futile attempt on bettering somebody. You are not that person’s psychologist.
Choose the least stressful approach
So we covered the fact that others affect us in our lives – positively and negatively. Our mental health is defined in large part by others. And we can pretty much agree that reacting to that person in a way that brings their attention will seldom change them. So what can we do?
The answer to this is to respond. Do not react. Some will argue that reacting and responding are in fact the same thing. I disagree. My idea of reacting is shouting at the guy who cuts me off. Responding is choosing to protect myself and my occupants and letting go of the situation. The rude lady at the checkout counter firmly believes she is right in treating me disrespectfully. I disagree. Will my brisk reaction change her or make her realize she is wrong? Chances are that this won’t happen. My response to this is to leave, as wanting to spend another second under her attention is toxic.
How to respond
It goes without saying that we are often naturally programmed to react, and do it fast. Learning to respond involves training. It involves training our brains to take a step back and formulate a response. Think of a response like a public relations officer at a company knee deep in a scandal would. You have to play politics.
Take some time to come up with a calm, crafted answer. And when it is delivered, it doesn’t end there. There will likely be a response from the other person. But the beauty about your crafted response is that you must stick to your guns. You may want to repeat it once more, but not any more than that.
And don’t forget to be calm in your response. Escalating it to the same level as the aggressor is a reaction, and that means that the other person is winning.
The Lifecheer takeway:
Whether it’s drama in a relationship or simple interactions with people along our journey, craft and deliver a calm response. Do not react. You have to protect yourself first, and respond second.