The Truth About Reactivity and Your Relationships

The Truth About Reactivity and Your Relationships

Reactive behavior is hazardous to your relationships. You wind up blaming others for your troubles and giving up control of your life.

Such behavior tends to be especially common and destructive in close relationships. We think we know each other so well that we make assumptions and operate on autopilot.

For example, your partner yells at you, so you yell back at them. Your friend recommends a book about nutrition and you accuse them of calling you fat.

Luckily, you can break this cycle of retaliation and overreaction!

Use this formula to make the switch from just reacting to being proactive:

Become More Mindful

1. Slow down.

Change begins with breaking out of your old habits and choosing more constructive approaches. Before you respond out of anger or hurt, take a deep breath. Give yourself time to separate facts from feelings and weigh your options.

2. Shift your attention.

You have little control over external events, but you can determine your own thoughts and actions. Focus your time and effort on the factors where you can have the most impact.

3. Manage stress.

Chronic tension intensifies reactivity. Find relaxation methods that work for you, like listening to instrumental music or taking a warm bath.

4. Stay active.

Physical exercise releases stress and calms your mind. Practice yoga or any low-to-moderate intensity aerobic activity. For extra relief, go outdoors where you can connect with nature. Take a run in the park or ride your bike.

5. Think positively.

An optimistic attitude helps to keep minor conflicts from escalating. When you think someone close to you is being uncooperative, try to put yourself in their shoes. You’ll probably find that their motives were innocent.

6. Release the past.

Do you have imaginary arguments with your boss based on what you expect them to say or something they did last summer? Letting go of old resentments will help you both to make a new and more proactive start.

7. Cultivate yourself.

Overall, keep the spotlight on your growth and development. As a bonus, your family and friends may make positive changes too when you start relating to them differently.

Communicate More Openly

1. Ask questions.

You may be reacting to troubling situations that reflect your own thoughts rather than any objective reality. If you want to know about other’s intentions, ask them directly and tactfully.

2. Validate others.

Strengthen your relationships by trying to deepen your understanding of others. Let them know that you care about them. Show them that their feelings and opinions matter to you.

3. Work together.

Reactivity can make you feel like you and your partner are on opposing sides. Make your relationship a top priority. Remember what brought you together and the values and goals you have in common. Resolve to seek common ground and support each other even when you disagree.

4. Express your needs.

Most reactive experiences can be avoided if you let others know what you need. Be specific. For example, tell a friend that you think it’s time for her to return your hospitality instead of giving her the cold shoulder because you feel neglected.

5. Seek counseling.

If you’re struggling to overcome reactive behavior or other relationship issues on your own, speaking with a professional therapist may help. You could discover new insights and solutions.

You can teach yourself to become more proactive. Take control of your life by grounding yourself in the present moment and communicating openly and respectfully about your needs. You’ll enjoy more happiness, and your relationships will become more harmonious.