Six Questions to Help You Keep Your Cool

   By divinecaroline  Jan 26, 2011

One of my worst faults is my tendency to “snap”?to react sharply, in a minor but harsh way. This trait clouds my happiness and the happiness of everyone who feels the lash.

The conventional advice for mastering your temper is to “Count to ten” before reacting. My problem is that, in the difficult moment, it never occurs to me to count to ten.

Figuring out ways to control my snappishness has been one of my chief goals for my happiness project. To try to rein it in, I’ve tried everything from getting more sleep to the Week of Extreme Nice to hypnosis.

I also came up with a set of questions that kick into my brain (sometimes) in time to affect my behavior.

When I feel myself losing my temper, if I can muster the mindfulness to be self-reflective, I ask myself these questions:

1. Am I at fault? I hate to be criticized or to be in the wrong. Often, I’m angriest when someone is chiding me about something that I am, indeed, guilty of. When I’m about to hit back, I remind myself to accept criticism politely, if grudgingly.

2. Will this solve anything? I often snap when I feel like I’m confronting the same annoyance over and over. Fact is, people often have irritating habits that aren’t going to change. Failure to meet deadlines, failure to return phone calls, untidiness, etc., etc. I try to remember that snapping isn’t going to make any difference, but will only make me feel bad.

3. Am I improving the situation? This is particularly important with my younger daughter. If I lose my temper with her, the problem just escalates to a whole new horrible level. She dissolves into tears and wails, “You talked to me in a mean voice!” It’s far more effective to stay calm. Also, nicer.

4. Should I be helping you? Often, I lose my temper because I’m actually feeling guilty about my own unhelpfulness. My guilt makes me crabby, but it’s really a sign that I should be taking action.

5. Am I uncomfortable? Discomfort shortens my fuse. I’ve become much more careful to dress warmly (even when people make fun of my long underwear and double sweaters), to snack more often, to turn off the light when I’m sleepy, and to take pain medication as soon as I get a headache. The Duke of Wellington advised, “Always make water when you can,” and I follow that precept, too.

6. Can I make a joke of this? Using humor is extraordinarily effective, but I usually can’t find the inner depths to laugh at an annoying situation. A distant goal for which I’m striving.

It’s tempting to dwell on questions like, “Whose fault is it?” or “Why am I upset?” but in the end, these tend to stoke my temper instead of soothe it. I try to remind myself that no behavior is annoying if I don’t find it annoying. A hackneyed observation, but true.

Have you found any good strategies for keeping your cool?


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mommyof3ree by mommyof3ree | Las Vegas, NV
Feb 11, 2011

I love this! It reminds me to keep my cool. I have three kids 5,3,2 and it doesn't help to snap. Thank you!!!

Outgoing1 by Outgoing1 | SANTA ROSA, CA
Feb 09, 2011

For the majority of my life I had a temper, then I had a great therapist and got older (I'm 58) and learned, "Does this really matter?" "Is it their problem or mine?" Right now I could go back to my old ways with my apartment manager but I tell myself, "I can't change her." For those of you still suffering from having a temper ... go for a walk or write down your thoughts in a journal.

babyface249 by babyface249 | COLORADO SPGS, CO
Jan 28, 2011

I like this

basilandcatnip by basilandcatnip | GARLAND, TX
Jan 27, 2011

Really great tips. I learned long ago to be open to comments, some you just let go over as you know it's from an unhealthy source, others you think about because how can you do something better unless you know you're doing something wrong? Also avoid energy vampires.

dinglemm by dinglemm | lillington, NC
Jan 27, 2011

awesome advise; thank you!

redthrea by redthrea | prineville, OR
Jan 27, 2011

Great thoughts with great advice!! I'm as cool as a cucumber most of the time. However, there are a few things that make me angry instantly. Counting to ten first before I boil over is attainable.

ashtonzmommi by ashtonzmommi | Spring Hill, FL
Jan 27, 2011

Great advice, thanks so much!

deerland by deerland | lisbon, CT
Jan 27, 2011

Really good advice! Just stopping to think is a good thing.

MadHatter by MadHatter | Whitestone , NY
Jan 26, 2011

i really need to learn some of these tips. i get annoyed quite a bit with my dad because he has a short temper and i always end up snapping at him. then he snaps back and its like a war.

mespeaktoo by mespeaktoo | Cottage Grove, MN
Jan 26, 2011

This is great! Not many people talk about this and in my world "my head it is not ok to get upset and over re-act". It is ok to be upset, what we have to watch is our reaction to the situation. Thanks for posting this. It shows that I am not the only one and gives me greater insight to what others do in the same situations.

LISA2699 by LISA2699 | Saugus, MA
Jan 26, 2011

I love this. What awesome advice. Make water whenever you can. Words to live by.