Has the following ever happened to you? You are discussing an
issue with your partner when the discussion suddenly turns into
a heated argument. Neither person knows what happened or how to
make it better. A battle ensues and lots of feelings are hurt.
This is overreaction in progress.
If this sounds familiar, it's because most of us have been in
this situation. Want to know how to deal with these types of
situations and understand why they happen? Welcome to
Everyone has some painful memories from past relationships and
interactions. When a person overreacts in the present it is
usually because a painful memory from a past incident is being
The person whose painful memory has been triggered is no longer
having a conversation in the present moment, but is reliving a
past event. He or she may be having an old argument with the
person who originally caused hurt feelings. Or he or she may be
reliving an old hurt, feeling as if it is happening all over
This is why the reaction is so strong, why it is an
overreaction. It's as if a wound that just barely started to
heal is ripped open, and the person is now in a huge amount of
There are six steps to take in order to effectively handle a
person who is overreacting. If your partner is the one who tends
to overreact, apply these steps when overreaction happens, and
also share these steps with him or her in a moment of calm.
If you are the one who tends to overreact, arm your partner
with the six steps below to protect him or her and your
1. Have compassion in the same way you would if a real physical
wound was ripped open.
A person overreacting is in real pain. Yes, they are lashing
out at you, saying hurtful or inflaming things, maybe even being
offensive. But these are the exact signs of a person in pain.
See if you can stop from having a reaction yourself, and instead
2. Table the current discussion - you will not resolve it at
this point. Make a mental note to return to it soon.
A person in the middle of an overreaction is extremely
unreasonable. Try as you might, there is virtually zero chance
you can have a normal conversation with him or her, or get
anything accomplished. However, if you try to continue a
conversation with someone who is having an overreaction, you are
guaranteed one outcome - a huge fight.
3. Don't take the overreaction personally under any
circumstances. This is not at all about you.
Seriously - it really is not about you. No matter what is being
said in the middle of the overreaction, it is not about you. If
you take it personally and get hurt over it, you are simply
joining your partner in overreaction.
4. Remove yourself from the situation.
Once your partner overreacts, the topic that triggered the
overreaction needs to be tabled until a better, calmer time.
Meanwhile, you need to remove yourself from the situation
temporarily to avoid feeling abused.
If you feel as if you are being hurt, unjustly accused, if you
feel angry, feel as if you want to lash out, remove yourself
from the situation temporarily, but immediately. This means put
on your shoes and coat and walk out the door. Go for a long
walk. Go shopping. Go to a movie. Go have a cup of coffee. Go
sit in your car and call a friend. Do something that feels good
and removes you from the situation.
5. Once things are calm, don't ignore what happened.
Don't let sleeping dogs lie. In other words, once you have
peace back, don't walk around on eggshells in order to prevent
triggering another overreaction. Don't avoid talking about what
happened in an open, honest, non-hurtful way.
Initiate a conversation to better understand what happened.
Start with something like, "You had a very strong response to
our last conversation."
Then, if your partner seems open, ask questions such as:
* What were you feeling?
* What did I remind you of?
* What did the situation remind you of?
Listen to everything your partner has to say. Remember
compassion. Do not defend yourself, or negate anything your
partner is saying. This is not about you.
6. At a later point, continue the discussion.
At a later point, discuss with your partner how you are similar
and different from the person who originally caused him or her
pain. Clarify what you meant by the words that triggered the
Discuss ways to deal with overreaction in the future, perhaps
some key phrases you can say to each other to stop overreaction.
If you can follow the above guidelines, you will find yourself
in an intimate relationship with fewer fights and overreactions
and much more closeness, intimacy and trust. You can use the
same process in any relationship, business or personal, with the
same trust-building benefit.
Handling overreactions in others or in yourself is hard work,
and you may find yourself wishing you had help. If this is the
case, I am available to help, in both a one-time coaching
session format or for ongoing coaching. For more info on how you
can get help, go to
Wishing you an overreaction-free week!
Your Relationship Coach,
(c) Rinatta Paries, 1998-2002. Do you know how to attract your
ideal mate? Do you know how to build a fulfilling relationship,
or how to reinvent yours to meet your needs? Relationship Coach
Rinatta Paries can teach you the skills and techniques to
attract and sustain long-term, healthy partnerships. Visit
www.WhatItTakes.com where you'll find quizzes, classes, advice
and a free weekly ezine. Become a "true love magnet(tm)!"
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