- I notice it in my words. I have plenty of things that I say either in my head or to others that are an indicator of lost self-control.
- I notice it in my feelings. I get irritated, frustrated, and angry.
Check in with yourself right now:
How do you know you have lost self-control or composure? Where do you notice in your body? What is your internal monologue? How do you feel?
When you've started to lose composure, there are four things you can do to get it back:
- Take deep breaths from your belly. Make sure that you inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Take more time on the exhale than the inhale. Repeat until your pulse starts to slow down.
- Pray. Say, "God, I'm becoming defensive. Please help me calm my spirit and listen to understand, not judge."
- Focus on the present. It's so easy to start jumping ahead to conclusions or dwelling on something in the past. Instead, get yourself in the present moment. You can do this by paying attention to your senses: What do I smell? See? Hear? Feel?
- Remind yourself that you're safe—and so are your beliefs. Say, "I'm safe. This isn't about me. This is about listening to another person and creating safety for them."
2. Pay attention to your intent.
Why we do what we do is a big factor in the success of our interactions. One of the most loving things we can do for another person is recognize that they have experiences, background, and beliefs that are different from our own, and then honestly seek to understand. Be curious about the reasons they think, do, and believe the way that they do.
Check in with yourself right now:
Consider a time recently when you found yourself making judgments about what another person was saying, doing, or believing. When you entered into a conversation, what was your motivation for engaging? Was it to understand their perspective? Was it to teach them what you believe? Was it to challenge their thinking?
When you find yourself wanting to interact, ask yourself: What is the reason I want to say something instead of just listening? If your intent is truly to gain new insights and information, that's a green light. If it isn't, seek to regain composure first.
3. Start interactions with facts instead of judgments.
Starting interactions with facts makes them less threatening. It opens up a conversation for understanding instead of defensiveness. When we start with judgments, people naturally get into a defensive posture. Starting with facts instead of judgments allows us to gain new insights and understanding. It communicates: "I want to know you and understand what you think, feel, and believe."
A fact is indisputable and based on observable, irrefutable data. Facts are specific, and all parties would agree that they are accurate. A judgment is opinion and can be viewed differently by different people. Here are some examples:
Fact: When we were talking about Jesus, you crossed your arms, rolled your eyes, and sighed.
Judgment: You get so frustrated when we talk about the Jesus.
Fact: I noticed you didn't share tonight.
Judgment: You're hiding something.
Fact: Though group is supposed to end at 8:30, people have been staying until 9:00.
Judgment: The group doesn't care that I need to get home.
Often, our brain jumps to a judgment before we even recognize what fact we observed that led to our judgment. To help identify the facts of a situation, notice both changes in yourself and changes in the group. Strive to pay attention to changes in behavior, language, body language, tone, and emotional reactions. Changes are a good indicator that there's more going on.