How many times have you said something that you later wish you hadn’t? I often have. The spoken word has power to heal or to hurt, and we so often use it for the latter. When I realised how hurtful I could be, I learnt to write it down before I blurt it out.
10 steps to write it down before you blurt it out
1. Don’t blurt it out: Bite your tongue
When we are hurt or angry, our natural impulse is to strike back. This often takes the form of angry words in self-defense, or accusing words pointing out that the person criticising us is not so perfect either. This reaction is motivated by the need to preserve our ego, and seldom does any good to the other person or to ourselves.
2. Remove yourself from the situation
The best thing to do is walk away from the person we are angry with. If you have a strong and aggressive personality, walking away could be very difficult since you are inclined to action rather than non-action. Especially if you’re like that, walk away.
3. Find a quiet place
Find somewhere you can be alone without interruption. It need not be literally quiet. I find a crowded cafe very quiet for me because everyone else is minding their own business and I can sit with a cup of coffee and tend to my thoughts in peace.
4. Write in a journal
I’m a big advocate of journalling as a means of processing feelings. Write down your feelings as accurately as you can. ‘Angry’ is often a catch-all phrase for much more specific emotions. Clarify whether you feel wronged or humiliated, neglected or ignored, slighted or left out.
5. Read what you’ve just written
Read your own words as if you were a neutral observer. Very often you’ll think “wow, I sound really mad” or “that’s a very sad person writing this”. This puts some distance between you and yourself, if it makes any sense. This distance makes you more detached and able to handle the situation more calmly.
6. Consider if any hurt or offence was intended
People have different personalities, and we think and behave in ways which may be completely different from another. Often we get angry or hurt when no offence was meant. The other person is blundering through life, just as you are, and making mistakes which sometimes hurt you without intending to.
7. List down your options
Write down at least three possible responses to what had just happened. If one option is to confront the person, write down exactly what words you’re going to say to that person. Be as specific as possible and imagine yourself going through the motions. Rehearse all the options in your mind.
8. Decide what kind of person you want to be
This will help you choose the option that will best reflect who you want to be as a person. If you seek to be wise and understanding, choose the option that requires you to find out more about the other person or about the situation before you jump to any judgment.
9. Sleep on it
Once you’ve decided the best course of action, you may want to wait for a few hours. Sleep on it to see if you still feel the same way the next morning when you are more rested and feel better. If the option still makes sense, go ahead. If not, there’s still time to change your mind.
10. Respond calmly
Only now do you actually say or do anything. Ask the person who hurt you whether you can talk for a few minutes, or write a note. One of the options may be to do nothing and this is a perfectly fine response. In fact, it’s often the best response. Just get over it and get on with life.
So write it down before you blurt it out
Taking the time to go through this checklist will save you from many heartaches, and may save you one or more relationships. These ten steps sound like a lot but each really only takes a few minutes, and soon it will become a natural reaction rather than a series of steps. Everything takes practice before it becomes natural.
Writing it down before you blurt it out also buys you time. Use this time to see if your anger stems from your own unmet needs, and find ways to honour your needs.