4 Keys to Responding Instead of Reacting.

Via Caroline Southwell on Jul 17, 2014

conversation understand talk argument

I have some aware friends.

They are exceptional at being present and they are good at being called on their behaviour when it is out of line with who they say they are or want to be. They’re also exceptional at doing the same for me.

However in the last two days I had two different, amazing friends of mine tell me over a cuppa that they weren’t happy with something I said. One brought up something that happened over three months ago, that both he and his partner hadn’t liked. Let’s call him Kevin.

Kevin wanted to remind me about something I had said the last time he and his partner were at my place: “I don’t know if I ever told you that, but I wanted to let you know it was inappropriate.”

Interesting. Who decides what’s appropriate or inappropriate? By what standards do we measure this? And surely it’s different for every person? So how does that work with more than seven billion people interacting on a daily basis?

What I realized as I reflected upon this situation, is that two things were happening. First, he was communicating his boundaries to me about how he wants me to behave, particularly around his partner (that’s fair, but three months later?). Second, neither himself nor his partner were taking responsibility for how they’re reacting to what I said.

My view is that they were reacting this way because they viewed my behaviour as “bad” and he appeared to be telling me off the way parents tell off their children. How often we see this dynamic playing out in society between friends, colleagues, spouses and within countless other relationships.

And so I just sat there, somewhat gobsmacked that my friend was still missing this piece. For someone who had taught me so much about being present and not missing the lessons, he was so caught up in the story, he couldn’t see the forest for the trees, and his body language clearly told me it was not up for discussion.

Fast forward to yesterday and I was sitting with a couple of friends of mine. I knew my girlfriend, let’s call her Jesse, wanted to talk to me about something, as we’d been playing phone tag for a couple of days. As our guy friend left to go for a walk, Jesse launched straight into telling me that she didn’t like a text message I sent her, that it made her feel bad.

I hadn’t known what she wanted to talk about, but since we often do coaching and healing session swaps for one another, I figured she’d found some other piece that she wanted help clearing.

So when she said this, it very much came as a surprise. And as Jesse explained to me which words had “hurt her,” I found myself again looking with interest, as I had with my friend Kevin, wondering what the heck was going on.

Why was this beautiful, spirited, present, powerful woman behaving in a reactionary way and getting thrown by a well-thought out, gentle but honest text message? How was she going to cope when people didn’t take time to craft their thoughts before expressing them? How was she going to handle straight out criticism as she becomes more and more well known as a speaker?

I was grateful that Jesse was open, unlike Kevin, to explore why she was feeling the way she was. And in that space we got to look at these powerful questions and she then had the space to work out what she needed and wanted to do differently. She gave me the space to explain why I had use those particular words and what those words meant to me, and for her to express what those words meant to her.

And so we were able to come to a place of mutual understanding and respect through open and courageous dialogue, that my other friend Kevin hadn’t been open or willing to do.

What I came to realise was that in both instances they were working too much and not playing enough. They both felt trapped by their circumstances, particularly with the struggles they were having with money and didn’t feel they were allowed to fully express themselves in the way they most wanted to. This lead to them being tired, and more likely to react rather than respond in a calm, present and curious way.

texting communication

We all have a role to take in being responsible.

I am responsible for what comes out of my mouth, what’s typed by these fingers and all that these hands touch.

How others respond to what I express is their responsibility. I cannot make anyone feel anything. Likewise for you… all that you think and express in the world is your part and how you react or respond to what others do, that’s your part too. But what comes out of someone else’s mouth and how they react to what you say, that’s their part to play in this game we call life.

So four ways to help you respond rather than react are:

1. Get grounded.

There are many ways to do this, and the trick is to find a way you like to do it. Anything that helps you get in your body (like a form of exercise you love—running, dancing, sex with a loving partner) will definitely help. Consciously taking big deep breaths is probably the easiest and quickest way to bring you back to now, and get you back into your body and out of your head. Of course, getting outside in the sunshine, or the cold, with your feet on the grass (or the snow!) will also help you get in your body again.

2. Notice when you’re over analysing.

If you find yourself lying awake at night on a regular basis because you can’t switch your mind off, this is a good sign you’re over analysing (probably a lot of things!). So use the above ideas (or your own) to get grounded. The more grounded you become, the easier it is to get present, and then the more aware you become, the more you’ll catch yourself over analysing! Once you’re aware of something you can change it, not before.

3. When someone says something you don’t like, take a deep breath before speaking.

This also applies to writing since we have so many conversations via text message, email, Facebook messages and the like… and the idea is to give yourself time to notice how you’re feeling, how you’re reacting internally before you express it externally to the other person or people involved. So often our initial reaction gets us in trouble, it causes the other person or people to also get defensive and react, and then the cycle whirls out of control. You can stop this by taking a deep breath and considering your response, and what the other person might be trying to communicate.

4. Appreciate that everyone is different.

Your friends, family, colleagues, and even your acquaintances you bump into as you go through life will all have had different life experiences to you. The experiences we have and the way we interpret these experiences form our beliefs, our attitudes and ultimately our personality. So the next time someone says something that you totally disagree with and you find yourself feeling out of sorts, ask yourself if you can appreciate that this person is different from you. Not wrong necessarily, just different. Because after all, wouldn’t it be boring if we were all the same?

~

Relephant:

Reacting Emotionally in a Relationship is Not a Mistake.

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The Sacred Art of Listening: Nourishing Loving Relationships.

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Bonus: how to bring mindfulness to life and relationships:

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Author: Caroline Southwell

Editor: Cat Beekmans

Photo: Rick & Brenda Beerhorst/Flickr, Jean-François Gornet/Flickr

About Caroline Southwell

Caroline Southwell is a speaker, facilitator, coach and writer. She loves teaching almost as much as she loves learning. She loves everything to do with the human mind and human behaviour. When she’s not coaching or teaching, you’ll find her running outdoors, finding places to dance or pondering the meaning of life. Check out Caroline’s website or catch up with her on facebook.

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106 Responses to “4 Keys to Responding Instead of Reacting.”

  1. sharonf says:

    I get what you are saying about people being responsible for how they feel about something you say or write. If that happened to me, however, I might be more open to feedback on how I am coming across. Especially if two different friends gave me feedback about how I was coming across in the span of one day. I'd also respect the enormous amount of courage it would take a person to give me that type of feedback. Maybe that is aspect of the article that impacted me most — the fact you have two friends who value your friendship and mentorship so much they'd be willing to take the risk of speaking their truth in order to return to harmony. I would value that level of honesty in a friendship so highly! I think there is some good advice in your article– perhaps taking a bit more responsibility in the face of courageous feedback is warranted.

    • Hi Sharon, thanks for your feedback. I agree. I am grateful that I have friends who feel safe to bring to me their concerns to me and are brave enough to voice how they are feeling, even if it takes time for them to do so. I wrote this article many months ago in order to process the lesson I saw at the time, and then upon reflection in the days afterwards I also asked myself "Where am I doing this? Where am I being emotionally reactive?". I have learnt that all behaviour I see in others is just a reflection of something else I also do. This is where the personal responsibility comes in I feel. The other wonderful lesson for me in this piece was when I found this article had not been published where I had originally sent it months ago, I re-read it through newer, wiser eyes and almost didn't send it here to be published it at all, as I have grown and changed so much in those short months. I, like you, saw that I was pointing the finger at others more than I was looking at my part in it. However, without censoring or changing, I decided the lessons were still worth sharing. Your feedback has reinforced the changes I could have made in line with who I now am. Thank you.

    • Shelley says:

      Hi, i like this comments.

      As i read the intro i felt you were quite critical and judgmental towards your friends. I believe everyone is responsible for thier own emotions, but that dosent make it ok for people to hurt our feelings.

      It sounds to me that the response you got from your friends made you feel a bit defensive.

      It is not always what we say but the tone of voice and the way we present ourselves.

      Many times that is all what people hear and respond to. Its not easy to feel triggered and stay open without reacting but its clearly worth it.

      • carolinesouthwell says:

        Agreed Shelley. Thank you. I learnt a lot simply by writing this article and sharing it publicly. I've been called all sorts of things in the comments here over the last 12 months and it's fascinating to watch my own process and how well I deal with it in this new public context. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Shasha says:

    Thank you for this perspective Caroline I think I really needed to read this today. I got into a Facebook ‘discussion’ the other day as I felt a friend was being more rude than necessary about a pop singer’s out of tune vocal recording. I’m not sure still what the agenda was, just felt the celebrity is a person too I guess! I never should have become involved, it was a pointless discussion really as it was not a message they were open to hearing and felt criticised. It’s good to be open and frank but I think you have to choose your discussions! Thanks again.

    • Shasha, I agree. Sometimes a discussion isn't worth entering into. Rather it's a matter of "picking your battles". So if it's worth fighting for and something you believe in strongly, I say go for it! Otherwise, going out and doing something that brings you joy, with friends who "get you" might be a better use of your time :)

  3. boliver392 says:

    good article..however I do have to say that yes, we are not responsible for how others take and respond to what we say…but we ARE responsible for what we say and some things may not be appropriate. There is nothing in the article indicating what was said…so maybe it WAS inappropriate or hurtful? We cant just go dropping whatever we want and expect others to work through it without a reaction, can we?

    • Hi boliver392. Great point. I definitely feel that we are responsible for what comes out of our mouth, not only in terms of WHAT we say, but also HOW we say it. And so often it's a matter of context and timing as well, for if we know a friend is under a massive amount of stress, that may not be the best time to challenge them. When it comes to what is "inappropriate" I find this differs from person to person depending on what they believe is "right and wrong". I have found that there really is no ONE right or wrong for any given situation, it's just contextual (depends on the situation and those involved). I see it all the time when I'm on stage. I could have 100 people in the room, say the same message and have 100 different responses to my message. Some will think it's "right" or amazing and others will think it's "wrong" or inappropriate or offence. It all depends on the person, and that's part of the message here, that we can't actually control whether the person receiving the message finds what we say inappropriate or hurtful, that bit's up to them. When it comes to just going around "dropping whatever we want and expect others to work through it", my initial response is "YES, and…". Yes, I think we can go around "dropping" our TRUTH in as loving and real way as possible. Yes, it will piss some people off and that's ok, they probably don't ACTUALLY love you for who you are. However, they probably will feel a reaction, I do. When someone I care about says something I find offence or hurtful or inappropriate to the situation, I still FEEL the reaction internally, I have just become better at PAUSING before I let it escape my mouth. I take time to consider whether they were intending to cause me pain, or if they were in fact just expressing their truth and it happened to run into some old "baggage" of mine. Because ultimately I know that anything someone says that upsets, offends, or hurts me is actually a gift as they've just helped me find some baggage I didn't know I was still carrying and that I can choose to let go of. And that's where my power is, in choosing what I do with what I'm given.

  4. carola says:

    Caroline, while I went through the lines from your article I only notice your reaction to other people perceptions.

    • Hi Carola, thanks for your observation. In this article I was exploring the difference between reacting and responding. I took time in both instances to consider their point of view and what was going on for them that created their reaction and responded from an emotionally calm place. Can you tell me what you saw or feel that is different?

      • Amber says:

        This article came across as self righteous to me…an unwillingness to be humble and say, oh shit, I’m not perfect. As hard as I try to be a good, consious, curious, responsive person I STILL hurt people. Unintentionally to be sure but all of this can be simplified with two simple words: I’m sorry. We don’t need to give our friends a psychoanalysis because they have a human emotion of being hurt. They don’t like something and have the courage to say so, simply respect that and apologize. U don’t have to get defensive just because someone is hurt by u unless u are 1. Self righteous or 2. Guilty

        • saladcloset says:

          I agree 100%, Amber. Caroline, in both of your examples your friends took time to think about how they felt and it sounds like they appropriately expressed their feelings to you. If that is "reacting" then what is responding? If anything, the "reacting" is on you, not them.

          Emotions are not logical. People feel offended or hurt sometimes despite our good intentions. A true friend would listen and respect their friend's feelings, not ask them "why" they feel the way they do. If I had two friends tell me that something I said hurt or offended them, I would look at MYSELF and my words and I would try to change MY behavior instead of writing an article where I call them out as "reacting."

          In reading the rest of the comments here, it sounds like the majority of those reading your article agree that you are missing a key component in your attempt to school others how to respond rather than react: the ability to look outside of yourself and be accountable for your own actions. You do a pretty good job at describing why your friends responded the way they did to your words. How about considering how your words may have been offensive or hurtful?

          Take some time to read all these comments here and consider that you may have missed the most important key to responding instead of reacting: personal accountability. Would be great to read a follow-up article where you talk about what a difficult but important lesson this was for you.

        • carolinesouthwell says:

          Hi Amber,
          Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it. You are one of several people who have commented by saying I should just have apologised. Yet, I didn't then, and even now, with another 12 months of learning and growing under my belt, still don't believe in apologizing. I don't think an apology actually helps anyone, it just keeps the same patterns in place. Instead as situations like this, with boundary issues, and speaking one's truth have come up, I have taken to THANKING them for speaking their truth, and taking time to understand what is going on for them and if they're willing to have a conversation about what triggered them, we talk about it. I ask of my friends to do the same with me, and I reinforce that I don't need or want apologies. This is how I personally choose to do relationships. It's not for everyone, I get that. But the depths of relationships I can now have because of my willingness to discuss when my own boundaries have been crossed, or when I'm feeling triggered, and the friends I choose to have who can do the same, has taken my life to a whole new level and I wouldn't have it any other way. Oh! And yes, I want to own the self-righteous comment. I can totally be self-righteous and as I read through this article again today (now 12 months after writing it) I can totally see how self-righteous it comes across, and in fact how much I was being that way with my friends, even though I did and do love them and even though they've both sort my guidance since. Thanks for the challenge Amber.

      • guest says:

        but how can you know what their "point of view" is without being them? You can only approximate what their view is as outside them. You can never fully know how anything truly impacts them. It is still only your view of "their point of view" as described by them. Do not forget that there are always 5 truths.

        • carolinesouthwell says:

          Thanks "guest". I hope you do come back and see this as I do truly appreciate you challenging me on this point about what their own point of view is. You're totally right. Even if they've told me their point of view, it's still not going to be the whole picture. Awesome reminder. And… I'm curious what you feel or have learnt about "5 truths". Will you share for the benefit of all who read this please?

    • Jill says:

      I agree. Caroline, all I saw was you taking no responsibility for hurting people and working hard to delegitimize their honest response to you. The whole piece was a remarkable feat of projection, very unpleasant. I hope I am not like this with friends. I respect them so much that if they are angry with me, I almost always swallow my defensiveness and listen, work hard to change.

  5. Kahysii says:

    I agree..typed comments are so monotone. Last month I typed a comment that it was exactly only six shopping months till Christmas.

    One response I received included the words ‘geez, clam down’. No exclamations, winky faces or other typed/inserted expression was used. I joked back about what I thought was a giggle moment…I commented back on the use of the word ‘clam’ by stating “haha. You told me to CLAM down” (hinting it was a typo for ‘calm’). The person replied “well, you need to.” To which I responded, “CLAM?” The communication ended there.

    I still feel affected being told, by my interpretation, to “STFU” and not to make comments about how excited I am (don’t get me wrong, I’m as poor as but still get excited when the 6 month countdown hits!) that I only have half a year to get my shit organised!

    What’s more confusing is that I thought this person loves Christmas, thinking of past posts from them about it. Now I find myself mentally dragging up posts and ghosts of Christmasses past and find the person greedy and selfish. That all it is to them and their siblings is to get super spoilt every year even though their family’s poor financial situation gets a priority status a few weeks before the holy day….pfft….why was my parade rained on????? Why am I so hurt by a word????? I now only say a polite hello to the person and keep moving instead of pausing for lengthy, more meaningful communication

    • Kahysii, your example is a perfect expression of how easily we can get "lost in translation" when it comes to the written word. One key thing to realise here is that everyone has different things that are important to them, and it's possible that your friend actually feels really negative about Christmas for some reason. I know I personally struggle with that time of year from having a really big family fight that still hasn't healed despite my best efforts, so when I see stuff about Christmas, my first REACTION is to cringe. And if I was to ACT from this emotionally charged place, then you might see dialogue back and forth like you experienced. How your friend reacts is outside your control, what you can do is choose to Let Go of what she or anyone else writes and move on. I feel that you may be "so hurt by a word" because what's important to you has been dissed, and in doing so you subconsciously may feel like this person is saying that your opinion doesn't matter. This is my outside observation, and may not be true, however I see it everyday in my clients so it's quite possibly happening in your case too. As a society we are so attached to what other people think, we forget to laugh and say "what do I think?", because ultimately your opinion is more important than anyone else's when it comes to your life.C

  6. Nicole says:

    I agree that we are not responsible for others' responses and that we can't "make"anyone feel anything without their permission. HOWEVER, that DOES NOT MEAN that we can go around saying or doing things that could be widely accepted as hurtful, without taking any responsibility for it. I really dislike it when people use "You are responsible for your own feelings" as an excuse to say and do anything they want, everyone else be damned. NOT saying this is what's happening in this case, but I do feel that this article is perpetuating that idea.

    • What's even worse are the "selective provocateurs" … they could treat certain people with respect, decency and pussyfoot around them. With others, who to them are fair game, they could blithely say and do anything they want (sort of a corollary to the "kiss up, kick down theory" in organizational behavior) … it happens!

      So, it's not "EVERYBODY else". They choose actual TARGETS … like the bullies they are capable of being …

      If you can choose not to deal with people who push your buttons, because they choose not to gain anything by controlling their utterances, that will be not only their loss, but the loss of others closely associated with them … it starts to spread unless they can run to new horizons …

    • Hi Nicole, thank you for raising this point. And it begs an article all of it's own – the importance of choosing the place we speak from. If we are consciously choosing to express ourselves from a place of truth and love, then I feel there is no issue. Some will not like what we speak and I would suggest that means they are not meant to be in our life. I don't encourage or condone speaking from a place of spreading ill will, deliberately seeking to cause pain, speaking to offend for the sake of entertainment or any other kind of communication based in fear or seeking power. That is not what I want to encourage or for readers of this article in take away as my message, so thank you again for bringing it up.

      • amphibi1yoghini, I feel everyone is capable of being a bully. It is easy for us to show up as different versions of ourselves with different people, to be more kind to people who we feel are similar to us, and less kind or even unconsciously cruel or dismissive with those who believe very differently to what we hold true. Not everyone who pushes your buttons is someone who wishes to cause you harm. In fact, I push my clients and my students every day, and yet I do so from a place of love, as this helps them grow and become better, happier, healthier versions of themselves. Like anything, it depends on the place we are coming from when we communicate. Do you wish the person harm or health?

    • Mia says:

      I agree. Insensitivve and overly arrogant people love this pharse because they can excuse their hurtful words and actions. They use this phrase so they don't have to accept responsibility for what they say and do. Yes, I have been hurt by folks like this and yes, I have also decided to be honest with my friend after I checked myself for being too sensitive and tired,etc.

      • carolinesouthwell says:

        Mia, if I might offer a gentle challenge? What if you chose to stop hanging out with people you find hurtful? I went through a period of a few years where I noticed which of my friends were consistently behaving in a way that felt toxic and not loving towards me (or themselves) and I slowly and systematically let them go from my life. In the space that was created I've had new, far more loving friends enter my life. These friends are great at letting me know when I've upset them and we chat about what was triggered, and I with them. We talk things through (just as Jesse in the article was doing with me, and Kelvin tried but really struggled to do). And, these same friends I now choose to spend time with are also great at looking at me and saying, "Hey babe, you look tired. I think you need to go to bed. I'll talk to you tomorrow. We can't solve this problem now". I wonder if you could start to shift your friend circles to people who are more loving towards you?

  7. thesourceress7 says:

    Our Freudian conditioning surely gets to be a burden. While useful to many, this is energetically and outdated paradigm. Being with what is and staying out of analysis is always best, since the very act of analyzing keeps us in the very thing, the very subconscious running programs that we are trying to analyze ourselves out of. Anyway, they are always in the past. Letting go, compassionate detachment and being present in the moment is the best, although, for some, the hardest, thing to do. Emotional reactions are born of our subconscious programming and are only gotten rid of by being fully conscious in the present moment. Stating your truth is always the best. The reaction to it is the responsibility of the other party, no matter how "bad" or "awful" that truth may appear to be.

    • thesourceress7, I concur and thank you for your thoughtful analysis 😛 In the months since writing this article and finally getting it online just a few days ago, I too have grown into an even more present space of observing and accepting what is. I look forward to your comments on some of my more recent pieces as they are posted on this website and my own online space.

    • jobsearchinginvancouver says:

      I don't think we all have Freudian conditioning. I do agree that our subconscious has a huge effect on us – although not all reactions come from there. I disagree that stating one's truth is not always the best course of action – perhaps sometimes but sometimes it is more just a selfish, navel gazing kind of a thing. Sensitivity to other people has to come into play – otherwise we become a bunch of self absorbed people stating our truths. Ugh.

      • carolinesouthwell says:

        Ah, thank you "jobsearchinvancouver". There is a balance to be struck between being sensitive to the needs of others and speaking our own truth, is there not? Both are important, I agree. And as I think back to these two examples I highlighted in this article I know I did the sensitivity piece better with "Jesse" than I did with "Kelvin". A great reminder. Thank you :)

    • guest says:

      Wow. Obviously you have figured out the ONLY and the BEST way. Good luck with that.

  8. jennifer says:

    You sound very hurt and embarrassed by your friends’ responses.

    • Hi Jennifer, thanks for your observation. I guess if I was embarrassed by my friends' responses then I wouldn't choose to put this story on an online space with 40,000 views. I had written it in the hope that my observation of this experience might help others and am grateful it has created such great conversations. I'm certainly not hurt and both people continue to be close friends of mine, with communication having improved further with the friend who was willing to discuss their reaction and less so with the friend who was not as he has shied away from difficult conversations, and though I don't love him any less for it, it just means that a deep and meaningful friendship has become harder to sustain. In the months since writing this article, I have become better and better at being present with what is and letting go of whatever pain I may be feeling, as I know this is where my responsibility lies. Which is, I guess the heart of what this article is truly about.

      • jch says:

        Now you sound embarrassed and defensive. This was a standout line for me:

        "Why was this beautiful, spirited, present, powerful woman behaving in a reactionary way and getting thrown by a well-thought out, gentle but honest text message?"

        If only others understood me, then all would be well. I think you are correct that both sides play a part, but I think you are leaning way too far into what others should do. Maybe it took 3 months to get to a place where your friend could wade into your defensiveness. Maybe the same for your partner. You seem to want to manage how others will respond to you instead of being willing to hear them fully.

        • carolinesouthwell says:

          THANK YOU "jch". I appreciate your insights lovely. And I SO want to own all of this. I agree when the first round of comments came in just days and weeks after sharing this article, whilst I do my best to "practise what I preach", I did find it very difficult to really "hear" what each person was saying in their comments, and though I asked myself to find the wisest response to each comment, I can see now, 12 months later with a whole bunch more learnings under my belt, just how defensive I was being in some of my replies. You, and others, have seen right through it.

          I'm fascinated by the line you chose to pull out of it. I can see now that all I wanted for my friend was to help her become less reactionary, as I SO wanted to support her to become the speaker she's always wanted to be. And after spending ages working out how to GENTLY word a text message I knew she wouldn't no matter how I worded my truth (she's asked for), I was SO surprised by how badly she took the message. And… as you've pointed out "jch" there is a whole other insight here that I (and hopefully others) can learn from – oh, woe is me, why don't you understand ME. Love it. You're totally on the money. I was making it so much about teaching my friends, that I wasn't looking for my own lessons in these experiences. Until weeks later that is, and especially since reading all these comments let me tell you!

          So thank you lovely, for your reminder for me to continue practise being willing to really hear my friends. I can see how well I do this as a coach, yet with my friends I can see there is still obvious room for improvement.

  9. reneesymons says:

    Good article. I have two views on this though. One is that I agree that it is our choice to react in the way that we do and we need to listen and behave mindfully of others. However, I also believe that it is our choice to have the opinions that we do and to express them whichever way we like, but we do so by accepting that anything that comes out of our mouths or hands has consequences and that those words may reach those who are not as enlightened or as mindful as we. If we were truly mindful, we would be selective about who we share such views with so as not to bring unease to those who are not in the same headspace. Mindfulness is a choice that not everyone is 'down' with, that is not necessarily their fault and we shouldn't treat them as such.

    • Hey Renee, thank you for your views on this article. I appreciate the thought that went into crafting your ideas and opinion, and it's given me reason to reflect in a whole new way – "Do I choose how I speak to whom and about what?". I realise that I do, consciously. "Could I do it better?". Absolutely. What I didn't express in this article is that both these friends are highly mindful, exceptionally spiritually connected people and thus this was the reason I was SO surprised by their reactions and what fuelled me to go looking for what was "happening underneath", and inspired this article in the first place. Thank you again for your insights, as it will prompt me to step up and be even more mindful in my future communication. Love C.

  10. Bryan says:

    While I agree that each person is responsible for how he or she responds to someone else’s words, no matter how hurtful those words may be, the fact is that our words can hurt. I would encourage you to examine the dismissive (some might say arrogant or presumptuous) manner in which this article may come across, in which you pose the initial premise as your friends’ “behaving in a reactionary way” in response to your “well thought out, gentle but honest” words. Your description of your initial gut reaction to Jesse sharing how your words made her feel seems to have been about what was irrational in her reaction, rather than an examination of what you might have said or done to make her feel that way. While you give a brief, obligatory nod to the notion that you are responsible for the words that you speak or type, you immediately move on to discuss what you seem to perceive as the real problem – everybody else and the manner in which they react to you. Given the fact that we do only control our own contribution to any interaction (as you correctly point out regarding your friends’ ownership of their reactions to you), perhaps a more productive response would be for you to examine what you may be doing to cause your communications with others to come across in ways you don’t intend, rather than of starting with the presumption that your communications are fine, and analyzing what is wrong in their life balance to make them unable to see that. Maybe they are working too much, maybe they are overanalyzing, but rarely can misunderstandings be attributed solely to one side.

    You are fortunate that your friends were up front enough to share with you that your words hurt or offended them. Sadly, most people don’t do that, but simply let it be a silent, unresolved wedge in the friendship. Embrace that opportunity to figure out what you might do differently to avoid that in the future, rather than telling everyone how they need to learn to react/respond to you differently.

    • Bryan, thank you for your insights and I can see this theme has come through several times in the comments. I'm grateful to realise how much I have grown since writing this article several months ago. I almost didn't ask for it to be published in this space for that exact reason, because when I found it unpublished elsewhere and re-read it through older, wiser eyes, I saw this same "junk" jump out of the page at me. I love that I decided to go ahead and get it published without changing it, as it was a challenge for me to put this old "junk" on display for public criticism, and because it has evoked since awesome comments and conversations that further reinforce a message I know each of us could learn more deeply. I absolutely agree that at times I can be arrogant and dismissive, and thanks for pointing that out as it helps me to own that part of my shadow to an even greater degree. Of course, having not shared my text messages or the individual spoken words, each of you guys can only guess as to whether in fact they were "kind and well thought out" or whether I am just saying that. That's cool. I appreciate you have to take my word for it, and this of course stirs the pot even deeper. I can also see that it's time for an article about the flip side, which I feel is SO important, about choosing to express our truth from a place of love. So thank you again Bryan for the challenge to step up and grow, to look in the mirror and see how I can do each of these pieces better. With love, C.

  11. JohnH says:

    Noticing the flack you have taken on this article, I want to let you know I admire your guts and wisdom. Yes, we shouldn't be intentionally hurtful to others, but neither should we diminish ourselves just to "protect" them from their feelings. I like your #1 suggestion of getting grounded. If we can go deep within ourselves, then we can speak honestly from our hearts and experiences. As the saying goes, "Well-behaved women seldom make history." Our first priority of relationship is with ourselves. The depth and care of that relationship will naturally extend to others in our sphere of influence. This is why your advice to get "grounded" is so important and necessary. Otherwise we will only be fooling ourselves and others will find us insincere. I would also add that it is important to listen and question before speaking. What is the other person trying to say? Why did my words elicit that reaction in them? Is there a deeper story or ulterior motive that is not being directly expressed? We can show our love and care by simply witnessing and seeking deeper truths. Someone said; "All feelings lead to love." This may be true, but usually we don't have the patience to dig that deep either within ourselves or in others. Like you advise, if we get grounded and take some breaths, maybe we at least can come closer. Yours is good practical advice on a skill all of us could use coaching and practice with.

  12. Hi JohnH,
    Thank you for your kind words and support. I did receive flack from this article and though I was a little surprised, I was also grateful for the insights and opinions that other readers had contrary to my own. I learnt much in the process, including how I REACT to what others say/write to me :) Glad that there was some wisdom in there for you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. And LOVE the quote "well-behaved women seldom make history". It's going on my Facebook Wall to share with my crew :) I'd love to connect over there and find out more about you. Find me at facebook.com/carolinesouthwelldotcom (page) or http://www.facebook.com/carolinesouthwellfb (personal) and just tell me we chatted here. And if not, be well friend!! With love, Caroline.

  13. Cheryl H says:

    Your article was so well written and really spoke out to me. I have been really struggling lately, over the past few months with some of the feedback I have given to a couple of really close friends of mine. I tried to engage dialogue with them with what I was trying to explain. There were things going on in both relationships that I wanted to address and I had reflected on both my parts in them. One friend shut down like Kevin and did not want to engage and our friendship has suffered as she has pulled away. Nothing I can do but it does hurt.

    The other friendship, I spoke my piece and wanted us to go into a dialogue but she would not engage, she wanted to just skim over it and move on but it has caused me to pull away and eventually I did because I just could not move forward without doing what you did with Jesse.

    I am glad I found this article and I am so grateful for seeing in words how I have been feeling. I know it will take time for me to heal and to move on. Thank you.

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Hi Cheryl,
      Thanks for your feedback and insights. I'm glad it helped. Sometimes as we grow an unfortunate thing (or perhaps fortunate depending on how you look at it) is that our relationships with friends (and family) shift and change, and sometimes, end. In the 12 months since I wrote this article my friendship circles have changed multiple times as I keep upleveling my own awareness and my willingness to stay in relationships that keep me stuck in one level of thinking or being has decreased yet again. The friends I stay in contact with long term are the ones with whom I can have these kinds of deep conversations and who can receive my feedback and insights (when it's timely and appropriate) and with whom I also feel safe to receive their insights and feedback. Of course it goes both ways. Good luck with your journey Cheryl and if you'd like to read more of my work outside of ej, then check out my blog here >>> http://www.carolinesouthwell.com/blog or my facebook page here >>> https://www.facebook.com/carolinesouthwelldotcom

  14. CherylH says:

    Your article was so well written and really spoke out to me. I have been really struggling lately, over the past few months with some of the feedback I have given to a couple of really close friends of mine. I tried to engage dialogue with them with what I was trying to explain. There were things going on in both relationships that I wanted to address and I had reflected on both my parts in them. One friend shut down like Kevin and did not want to engage and our friendship has suffered as she has pulled away. Nothing I can do but it does hurt.

    The other friendship, I spoke my piece and wanted us to go into a dialogue but she would not engage, she wanted to just skim over it and move on but it has caused me to pull away and eventually I did because I just could not move forward without doing what you did with Jesse.

    I am glad I found this article and I am so grateful for seeing in words how I have been feeling. I know it will take time for me to heal and to move on. Thank you.

  15. Kelli says:

    great article! Are you a Scorpio by chance?

  16. Miranda says:

    I thought it was a great article also. Maybe some of you guys could offer me a suggestion or two on this subject. Background: im a Cancer, highly sensitive, highly over analytical, basket case. :) Im 33 and have been single for the most part of my life. Imagine that! Lol Well, now I am finally in a relationship. I have no clue how to deal with my own emotions, much less how to react when I feel hurt, jilted, angry etc. I guess my question is, how do you know what “battles” to let go of and which ones you should address, when to “draw a line”? Sometimes, I feel like my SO is hurting my feelings/not being as thoughtful as I’d like, etc. I do not want to be a nag or complain all the time. I went through this today. So much that several times, I convinced myself to end it. I did not respond,

    react or address any of it, and we went on to have the BEST time together. I LOVE what we have, and do not want to lose him, but at times I feel like I’d be better off alone again. Sorry for the rambling.

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Hi Miranda,
      First up. Let's get honest here. I too, have been single for much of my adult life, so I hesitate to give you "advice" in this context. Having said that, I coach clients all the time through their relationship issues, and it always comes back to the same point – come to know YOURSELF as deeply as you can and YOU will know which battles to let go and when to stand up and say something. The more you can come to Know Yourself, Be Yourself and Love Yourself through ANY method or process you can get access to, the more ALL of your relationships will improve AND the more you'll attract the relationships that are right for you :) Hope that helps Miranda. And if you'd like to read more of my work outside of ej, then check out my blog here >>> http://www.carolinesouthwell.com/blog or my facebook page here >>> https://www.facebook.com/carolinesouthwelldotcom

  17. Andrea says:

    I lost interest the second I realized that you don’t know how to spell…. It’s overanalyzing…. yes, it contains a ‘z’, not an ‘s’… an it IS one word, though hyphenating it is an acceptable alternative.

    • Bazinga says:

      Hello! You're absolutely correct, overanalyzing is spelled with a z…in the United States. In Australia, where the author is from, it is spelled with an s.

      • carolinesouthwell says:

        Thanks Bazinga. Appreciate the attention to detail. Of course I COULD spell everything in American English, but then what about everyone else who speaks and writes OTHER versions of English 😛

  18. G says:

    Caroline, thank you for your article, but I won’t be reading anything you write in the future. Perhaps a little self-reflection, which is perhaps what your friends were hoping from you, would do you some good.

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Thanks G. I appreciate your comment as it helps me see just how far I've come in the 12 months since writing this article. You're right, some self reflection does go a really long way, and has helped me reach a point where I am able to write a piece of work about my life and my insights and share it in a very public way. Hopefully since writing this comment you have become better at forgiving yourself when you don't see the highest truth in any given moment and give yourself the opportunity to learn, grow and improve :)

  19. Leah says:

    I read this piece and was utterly taken aback at the lack of self awareness. If a friend or loved one is invested enough in you and trusts you enough to make efforts to work through something they were hurt by that you did or said to them- you should care a lot more than it seems that you do.
    The title was very misleading in that you say you're offering keys to responding instead of reacting (a very solid and wise practice indeed), however you go on to "react" yourself, rather than respond to the important needs of your in friends. It's also quite telling when multiple people who are involved with you are bringing to your attention your tendency to say things that hurt, or offend. Most people don't gave the balls to speak their truth in thus way, or wouldn't bother. You may want to think about how many others feel this way about you but stay silent.
    Finally- it' seems that you have good intentions- which is really what matters. So hopefully this comes across and hopefully you are able to see yourself clearly through this article of your own writing, and grow from it.

    • Laura says:

      Thanks Leah! You "stole" my ideas – I couldn't have said it better (actually, I would've said it worse, because I, too, was taken aback, and even hurt a bit by the lack of the author's awareness and by her powerful mind, which she uses to deny the reality of her hurting two close people and to defend herself). I was frustrated that the title was misleading and I came to read about a very personal matter that it shouldn't have been written for the public. Moreover, the author takes the time to respond to each comment in a continuous defensive manner. The best answer would be silence (yes, by my standards).

      • carolinesouthwell says:

        Thanks for your feedback Laura. Always great to hear differing opinions as it's easy to get lost in the "success" of this article being shared 15,000 times on Facebook in the last 12 months and "overlooking" those who didn't agree. Your challenge helps me grow and for that I am thankful.

        You're right, I do share very private stories publicly. I change name of my friends and clients in order to protect them and still pull out the highest wisdom I can access at that time. This was the best I could do at that time. And now, 12 months later, it's wonderful to look back and see how much I've grown, and still have the courage to continue to write, even though what I've shared in the past is no longer anything like what I would write today.

        You called me out on defending. And I can see myself doing it again here, so I want to call myself out. It's amazing how easily I can write and share about wisdoms (from my perspective) yet to receive criticism of the work I've birthed is extremely hard. It's almost like being told that my own child is not good enough. This is not to say "Laura, never criticise an author again", because perhaps it's in your nature to challenge and someone needs to for us to continue to grow, but more for those OTHER writers producing work from their heart that fear criticism such as this to know… it will not kill them, painful as it is.

        So for your painful lesson, thank you. Really, thank you. And I hope that you find other writers on ej and beyond whose words speak to heart and light up your soul.

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Hi Leah, it's wonderful to come back and read this piece almost 12 months after writing it and see how far I've come in my own levels of self-awareness. I can see how cold I could be perceived in this article, yet to tell an effective story I chose a stance, a position from which to tell it. I do in fact care dearly about both friends, and they in turn, have continued to go out of their way to be in my life, thanking me for being more honest and real with them than most of their friends. Yet, none of that matters to you as the reader, I can see that you actually want to read something from a person who will guide you to the next level of person you want to be. This article WASN'T that for you when you read in a couple of months ago. Got it. Thanks for your feedback and if you see this and have seen articles I've written since then, perhaps you'll see the growth I've undergone. More of my more recent writing can be found here >>> http://www.carolinesouthwell.com/blog or my facebook page here >>> https://www.facebook.com/carolinesouthwelldotcom With love, and thank you for "having the balls" to speak your truth. Caroline x

  20. Andrea says:

    Your friends took the time to reflect on the hurt they experienced as a result of your actions. I do not see this as reactive. I found your response reactive.

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Thank you Andrea. These two same sentiments have been repeated several times through the comments and I'll tell you what, there is nothing like writing a piece from the heart with the best a writer has at the time, to get profound insights into our own next lesson to learn through the feedback received. Thanks ej for giving ME the option to learn from my readers as much as readers have the option to learn from me.

  21. Vstay says:

    Maybe all of you, including the author is guilty of No.2- Overanalyzing :)))

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Thanks Vstay. With the wisdom of hindsight of a year of personal growth since I penning this piece, I can agree with you. It's said that "we teach the thing we most need to learn" :)

  22. sharon says:

    All I see is the author defending their own ego. Bottom line. Listen to others you don’t have to take everything on board but the length you have gone to defend yourself suggests the problem is not only theirs !

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Hi Sharon,
      I absolutely agree that I told this story from a very one sided perspective. Perhaps as I continue to improve as a writer I will learn how to share a story from a more balanced perspective and include all the work I had to do in order to create the safety and trust within these friendships in order for them to feel like they COULD voice these concerns. Perhaps I will find a way to share in future stories more of the deep love I feel for my friends and for humanity as a whole. And perhaps I will find a way to deal with the criticism of readers like you and many others who took the time to comment here, without it crushing my will to write. I totally, wholeheartedly agree that the "problem (was) not only theirs". The woman who wrote that article 12 months ago had a lot of learning to do. And let's face it, I still do. We're all still learning, every day, right Sharon?

  23. smurf says:

    It’s so difficult for me to see this continue to be a promoted post. I don’t toss the word “triggered” around often– in fact, I kind of hate it. But the physical response to the author’s attitude here is just overwhelming for me, and a clear sign it’s something I should work on– I hope the author will take all the negative comments in the same vein.

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Love it Smurf! Thank you. Of all the "criticism" here, yours speaks to me the most. I too struggle to see this post continue to grow in popularity for the woman I've become would have pulled a completely different lesson from this situation (if I even created something like this at this time, which I seem not to funnily enough). Thank you for the reminder to look out for what particular things in these comments trigger me, so I too can go work on them. Love x

  24. Allie says:

    I found many aspects of this article incredibly validating. As an extremly empathic person, its difficult to not get consumed by upset emotions others may be expressing.

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Hi Allie, my suggestion, if you'd like it…
      If you feel that you are an empath and are taking on the pain that others feel in reaction to your words/behaviour then you can learn from Reiki and other modalities about learning not to identify with what others are feeling. Their emotions ARE their responsibility and yours, like your reaction or response, is your responsbility. So perhaps look into learning how to identify what is yours (and deciding what you want to do about what you feel) and what it theirs (and letting it go). For you, this is perhaps the most self-loving thing you can do. And by looking after self, you make space for healthier interactions and relationships with others. C x

  25. DeMarie says:

    I found your story interesting. However, I also felt like you did not accept responsibility for your words. Two friends were hurt by you – and basically your thought process came across as – I say what I say and that is all I am responsible for – I find that offensive. I love my friends and family, and if I hurt them with my words then I have contributed to their thought process in a negative way. I think you need to own your part in how you made others feel.

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Thanks DeMarie. I appreciate you taking the time to write. I don't believe anyone can "offend" anyone else without their words TRIGGERING something that already exists within the receiver of the message. At the basis of who we are is just love. If I said something I thought would be unkind to say the Dalai Lama, I imagine, that he would simply look at me, or laugh at me, and ask me what was going on for me that was causing me to want to lash out in pain. He would unlikely take it personally. Thanks for your comment as it totally cemented for me, even 12 months after writing this article, that I ABSOLUTELY believe we need to be responsible for our OWN reactions and responses, and cannot ever "make anyone feel anything" – that bit is theirs. Thank you for the challenge.

  26. Karoline says:

    I am totally “pro-responsibility-for-your-own-life” and exactly in this context I disagree with you.

    I think it is totally fair for someone to tell you that a certain thing you said hurt them. I think that is taking responsibility. If they don’t tell you, you might say it again and then it might create a situation.

    Nobody is perfect and we all (and am sure you too) have individual things that we might react strongly to, so I think it is taking responsibility for ourselves if we communicate that to the other person. Even if (or exactly because) we know there is something happening on our side and maybe it has absolutely nothing to do with the other person, but letting them know is being honest and responsible. And I think what you ask for is being not truthful to yourselves, because only because you get grounded, or use any of the tools you mentioned up there (and which I think are great) you are not gonna just get your feeling out of the way. I think it is important to feel and communicate boundaries.

  27. Karoline says:

    I totally agree with taking responsibility for your life and exactly in that context, I disagree with what you wrote.

    I think it is taking responsibility for their lives when they tell you they didn’t like something you said, very powerful and mature actually. In your perfect world view (or that is how you suggest for me to interpret it), it seems like nothing anyone says should bother anyone else, but that is not reality. Nobody is perfect and we all have individual life stories that shape our response (or reaction, in case you want to call it that way :-)) to anything that is given to us. So I think it is truthful if we respond in the individual way we are shaped. I think it is truthful to ourselves and to the other person to say if something bothers us. If we don’t communicate that, it will create an untrue relationship. Sure, if the reaction gets out of hand, it is something else, but we are both not talking about it.

    I think it is very open, vulnerable and powerful to communicate our boundaries and not pretend everything is fine. Confessing (by sending a message like the above mentioned “I didn’t like how it made me feel” or “I didn’t like the text”) that something was not ok for someone, shows their true self and is the strongest thing to do. If they then want to discuss why with you, is another story. By the way you judge people who do that, am not sure if I wanted to discuss it with you, but in general, that opens it up then. If they don’t say that, but just take whatever you throw at them and never communicate their real feelings, the option will never be there. Nor will be the opportunity to connect on a deeper level, or for anyone to grow in that relationship. Often we react to something and we know that something was happening on our side, but one way to work through it is to work through it: saying it and then talking about it to the other person.

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Thank you for sharing how you interpreted this article Karoline. It's really helpful and interesting for me to read the different perspectives that each person who has commented has taken. I can see it's taken you a while to respond with your two messages, and so again thank you for taking the time to do so and to put your thoughts into written form in a way that I could learn from and understand. I totally agree with what I feel is your main point, that we WILL get triggered by what other people say and that by taking the opportunity to discuss what we are feeling and where our boundaries are and where we want them to be, then we make space for a healthier relationship and healthier self. I agree, I absolutely want people to be 100% honest and that does mean having difficult conversations… in fact, it's what my main message has now become. The wisdom of hindsight is a beautiful thing and in writing this piece 12 months ago, posting it here and having it gone viral with well thought out comments such as yours Karoline, it has taught me bucketloads. So thank you x

  28. Neil Gaalis says:

    I totally agree with teachings.

  29. Diane says:

    I notice the writer was blaming the other people for how they felt … not accepting responsibility for her part in it! If what you say offends someone, mature people will each accept half of the responsibility …

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Thanks Diane. I'm interested to read how differently everyone interprets what I wrote. Happy to be labelled as immature (in between the lines) if it means my work has reached this many people. Thanks for contributing to getting my work out to more people by commenting, as each comment has helped it to reach the point of now going viral.

  30. Phyllis says:

    A good read for you, 10% Happier by Dan Harris speaks to how we see much more negative aspects in our environment when we are tired, hungry, stressed, etc.

  31. KLS says:

    Taking 3 months to ponder something you found disturbing, then having the courage to bring it up despite how uncomfortable you might feel, letting other people know where your personal boundaries are….all these things sound like responding to me….we are all human, making mistakes is part of that, if I happen to react instead of respond, I would hope those around me, especially friends, were willing to be understanding without taking the moral high ground and making judgement, allowing the time and space for my awareness to develop. Namaste

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Thanks KLS. Totally agree. Thanks for your viewpoint. You're right, I did write this particular article from the "moral high ground" at that point in time, and through the copious comments challenging me here my writing style has shifted over the last 12 months. Thanks for the reminder to do just that; to be the kind of friend who allows others the time and space for their awareness to develop… and to keep finding new ways to share the lessons I learn along the way. Love, C.

  32. vikki says:

    haha sanctimonious and may i say hypocritical – pissing everyone off and the writing an article to justify being tactless and upsetting people rather than question yourself – If one man calls you a donkey, ignore him. If two men call you a donkey, think about it. If three men call you a donkey, buy a saddle

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Thanks Vikki. I wish you only peace, for if you are this unkind in your words towards me, I hate to think how you talk to yourself. I instead shall pat myself on the back for being brave enough to write an article and share it publicly with the highest lessons I could pull out of the experience at the time, and be thankful I have the courage to keep writing despite what others such as yourself might throw back at me. All the best with your journey to self love babe.

  33. tere says:

    Peace.

  34. J. C. says:

    I think it would be categorized as "reacting" if each of your friends immediately confronted you about your words/texts. However time had passed in each instance as they clearly tried to work through it themselves. Seems to me their conscious and aware processing of the situation still left something to be desired – an honest expression of their feelings to you. It's too bad you didn't take more accountability and instead put the responsibility on them. While it is true that we choose how to respond and react to others we ALSO have impact on others around us – negative or positive. If you had negative impact on your friends maybe an apology is in order. It would certainly be kinder than writing an article which puts them in a negative light.

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Thank you J.C. With many, many comments here you are the first to highlight and help me see that both of them did in fact take time to respond rather than react. So for that, thank you. I too agree that it "takes two to tango" and that these experiences were co-created. Yet I don't believe in apologies, for that suggests I did something "wrong" when in actual fact, I don't believe (through my current frame of the world almost 12 months after writing this article) that either myself or either of my two friends did anything "wrong". They did a thing, I did a thing, it had consequences and brought lessons for us all. I love that you ask me to be kinder "rather than writing an article which puts them in a negative light" as it helps me realise that in order to teach the lesson I want to teach I'm willing to make some a scapegoat. In much of my more recent writing, I am making myself that scapegoat. Not always, but sometimes. I realise, though processing your challenge just now, that I put the lesson first and the people second, because I feel the lessons can help SO many people. And thus a re-inforcement of how important it is to keep people's identities hidden. For, as cold as I sound typing this, I care deeply about my friends, despite how it might come across in this article and this response. Thanks again for your challenge JC as it solidified many things for me, and HOPEFULLY there is some wisdom you can draw out of my process here for yourself, whether in agreement, or not, and the clarity that comes from either. With love, Caroline.

  35. Aurora says:

    Ok so while this could have been a good article about how to respond to life verses how to react to life, it comes across as someone being upset that her friends told her she upset them, and made some list about breathing and remembering that people are different which is ultimately unhelpful and ineffective

    If someone tells you that you upset them, it’s important acknowledge that because your words are your responsibility and if they sharing their feeling with you it means they care about the relationship. It is much better to have a discussion about how they interpreted your words and what you meant by them (which he did with his girlfriend)

    But she was essentially saying that her friends’ feeling shouldn’t have been hurt and that it’s their fault not his when he said something inappropriate or I sensitive.

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Thanks Aurora for your comment. It continues to fascinate me how differently each person takes this article. And I continue to make peace with the woman I was over 12 months ago when I wrote this piece. Thanks for the challenge. All timely reminders I can take and reflect on in my present life to see where I can continue to do any or all of these better.

  36. Debbie says:

    Wow, this is really an interesting conversation and it's been going on for such a long time! I've read almost every post and subsequent reply and notice lots of agreement of the main themes. I agree with much of what's been said myself, but wanted to add something that came up while I was reading. I worked as a counselor in a substance abuse program for 9 years, and one of the themes taught in our groups on avoiding relapse was to identify a trigger (say an offensive comment in an email) and have a plan for dealing with it in a healthy way rather than picking up your drug of choice. The author's original post speaks to this method. The goal was to stop, identify the feeling, remember that you alone have control over how you respond to any feeling no matter if it's happiness, sadness, or whatever and that your current feeling state, (HALT) hungry, angry, lonely, or tired has an effect on your response as well. The next step is to utilize one of the tools you have in place (taking a walk, calling a supportive friend, taking a shower, writing in a journal, etc.) to help make the right choice and avoid relapse. Clients often blame others for their relapse, and this 'faulty' thinking would allow them to give control to the other rather than take the responsibility squarely on themselves. "I wouldn't have gone to the bar if she hadn't sent me that email" would seem perfectly reasonable to a client who had relapsed. Seen in this context, the author's original article would be on point. We would at a later time examine what had been offensive to the client, but this examination never strayed from the premise that bottom line, what mattered was not allowing anyone or anything that brought up 'feelings' to take control of your sobriety. It almost seemed like the author was viewing her situation from this perspective. It doesn't matter what's offensive, what matters is what's going on with you, and that you maintain your self image and strength and move forward without succumbing to the offense and resulting feelings. We would ask a client who did choose to escape their feelings through using, to examine everything that happened that led up to the use, and where they might have chosen to act differently. We emphasized that reacting negatively was allowing the other person to have control and that would often lead to a bad outcome. I understand that the incidents in this article seem to have occurred between friends, but in a different context the author's premise would have been acceptable.

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Hi Debbie, thanks for your well thought out and lengthy reply. Yours in the (current) last in another 20+ comments that have come in since I last looked at the comments. I appreciate your insights as a substance abuse counselor and notice that you too make mention of the HALT idea which I hadn't heard before but makes so much sense. Thanks for outlining in detail for me and everyone else who reads through the comments what you found worked for your clients (and you I guess!) in shifting the behaviour when "triggered". I notice and appreciate being called out on the "blaming" that the version of me wrote about over 12 months ago, and it's a great reminder to see how much of it I am still doing now. Like you Debbie, I find it interesting to notice the length of time over which this conversation has been going on. With this being the most widely read and shared piece of mine thus far it has become a great opportunity for me to watch my own reactions to criticism of a piece I would write so differently today, and cannot change… for me to make peace with what is, and see if I can just be entertained by the "fallout", whilst staying humble enough to realise there is ALWAYS, ALWAYS more to learn, even from and perhaps especially from, those here who are cruel in their language. The one question I did have for you pertains to your last sentence, which I didn't understand. If you see this reply, would you be kind enough to rephrase it so I have another chance to understand what you meant by "in a different context the author's premise would have been acceptable"? I get that you don't think it is in this context and I'm curious why you feel that way AND in what context it would seem acceptable to you, and why? With gratitude, Caroline, the humble student.

  37. Jennifer says:

    Something going viral simply means that lots and lots and lots and LOTS of people have seen it, and the website that publishes it makes a killing on the ads and depending on the site, maybe you get a kickback too. Unfortunately, in this case, it also means that you are being perceived as metaphorically throwing your friend under a bus and then standing on his hair in front of half a million people. Then you said, in no uncertain terms, "I don't say "I apologise" because our opinions "are" and no one is right or wrong." I agree, partially. Yes, your opinion is and so is "Kevin's" and neither one of you is right or wrong, as both of your opinions are valid from your point of view. I very, Very strongly agree with you on both of those points and I honour them. I feel I need to add to this by saying that I believe that the words "I apologise" are a bridge between the two, clashing, feelings. I understand them to be an acknowledgement that the other person's experience of the clash of the two opinions is causing them pain and that the person who is saying "I apologise" feels compassion for that pain. The words "I apologise" are a gift, a verbal hug, a salve if you will. They do not render either person's thoughts, emotions or opinions invalid. They connect the two thoughts and begin to heal them. They are an excellent indication of emotional maturity and they feel really, really good both for the giver and the receiver, when spoken with an honest, open heart. The words "I apologise" are very, very special to me (both as a giver and a receiver) and a huge reason why I have hope in humanity. To end my lengthy comment, I apologise on behalf of the internet (though I admit, I do not have the internet's permission to do so, I'm going to anyway), by saying that I'm truly sorry that you are experiencing the feedback you are receiving from this article as cruelty. I hope that you can find both growth and healing from the pain that you are experiencing. From my heart to yours, Jenn

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Thank you Jenn. I feel the sincerity of your words and appreciate the time it took you to reply. Agreed, something going viral DOES just mean a lot of people have seen it. And whilst it's great for the website hosting the piece, the only "kick backs" I have received, have in fact been the "kicking back" of people's sometimes kind and sometimes cruel comments. Yet… I have spent a lot of time pondering this idea of an apology, even again last night as a dear friend of mine apologised to as he got off stage saying "I'm sorry you're up so late". He knew I'd stayed up beyond my desired bedtime in order to see his show. I looked him in the eyes with my hands on his shoulders telling him he didn't need to ever apologise to me again, and that I had chosen to stay up late to see what I thought would be an extraordinary show (and it was). As I reflected on his apology, also coming out of the mouth of one of the wisest, most self-actualised men I've ever met, I asked myself "what was under this apology?", and in fact, what is underneath ANY apology? And I have to agree with you Jenn, we use an apology as a bridge between people when we perceive they are in pain due to something we said or did. And yet, it also suggests that what that person (that we perceive we "hurt") ONLY experienced something NEGATIVE as a result of our actions. It doesn't make room for the fact that something positive might have come out of it as well. An apology has us focus only on the "bad" and not look for the "good". So as I considered what was underneath an apology, I feel the intention is to let the other know, "I care about you, and is there something I can do to help you now or ease your pain". So what if we said that instead? Finally, as I read your words and read between the lines to search for the energy in your words, I appreciate that you are likely a person who FEELS DEEPLY the pain of others Jenn. I imagine that as you read the comments of others above you REALLY felt for me as the receiver of those words and imagined the pain I might have felt upon reading them. Indeed, I did feel pain. It did take, at times, every once of my willpower to not react, and to in fact take my own advice as written in this article 12 months ago. And yet, I WOULDN'T HAVE IT ANY OTHER WAY. I am GRATEFUL for every single one of these comments, even the ones that were deliberately intended to sting, as I have grown even more by reading each of the comments and considering how I want to reply than I did in experiencing these two interactions with my friends a year ago. So thank you for your blessing lovely. May my words too be received in your heart, from mine. Caroline.

  38. Avodart says:

    Thanks for sharing! The tips provided are very helpful especially for women, who are really more susceptible to over analysing.

  39. Nage says:

    I read the book Conscious Communication by Miles Sherts and that helped a great deal in my communications. Basically, you express what you are feeling without blame and and how it affected you. In the example of a person upset about a text message, they might say to you, "I felt upset when you texted me because it came off as cold… or whatever…" then the other person says, "So what you are saying is that when I text a certain way you feel upset because…" and basically you listen and acknowledge the person's feelings as valid without agreeing or debating them. This allows discussion, not blame – not fighting, but real listening. We all want to he heard, but are we willing to listen?

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Love it, thanks Nage. I'll add this book to my reading list, as I know I always have room to improve even though I work on communicating consciously with every conversation. May I also note, I've had this used on/with me before when I spoke my truth and this person simply used it as a formula without ANY desire to ACTUALLY hear me. It felt worse than if he's actually ignored me. So let's use the formula WITH a genuine intention to HEAR the other person yeah?

  40. Julie says:

    I can’t believe the world has gone so mad that so many people feel the need to respond to this pile of self righteous cr#p. Even I am doing it! Will it matter 5 years from now? Do we really have to pick over ours and others faults all the time? Say you are sorry and get a life! Or, if you prefer, swap your friends again (you seem to be good at that). I suppose now you’re going to thank me for my amazing insight….pass the sick bag….

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Julie, I'm only grateful that I need to tolerate your hateful words once, rather than being inside your head where you must put up with this many times every day. All the best with that.

  41. os1234 says:

    I like the message of this piece.

    But, a bit of heresy, and supporting what you write, I think maybe we've gone too far in the community in encouraging people to "feel" and not far enough in encouraging them to own their feelings. Somebody who's spending days agonizing over a single not-directly-offensive text message is clearly not being present, and almost as clearly lacking sense of scale or proportion. And perhaps has too much spare time on their hands?

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Agreed. We, myself included, can spend too much time thinking and over analysing. Totally hope this point came across to those ready to hear it :) Thanks for your support @os1234.

  42. Shelley Gowdy says:

    I really can’t take your advice seriously. It sounds like you just want to blame the people who are calling you out for acting like a jerk. You hurt people and when they confront you about it you ask yourself, “what’s wrong with them?”

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Hi Shelley, acting like a jerk is subject of course to who is observing the behaviour. The challenge with writing a piece like this is that not a single person who has commented here had the opportunity to be there on either occasion so will never be in a position to accurately judge whether my behaviour (or that of my friends') was inappropriate, inconsiderate, hurtful, unkind or anything else I've been called in the last 50 comments. Of course it would make for an interesting article of course if others could have been present and given their two sense from a place of seeing this for yourself. However you get it through the lens of the woman I was over a year ago when I experienced this and wrote this. So I guess there is nothing left for you to take what you wish from this article. If you want to judge and berate me, that is of course, your choice.

  43. Jay says:

    I think the old line 'you're not responsible for anyone's feelings but your own' unfairly lets you off the hook. If we're actually having exchanges with people then it's a two way street; you can't just say anything and then cut people off because they're being 'negative'. I don't think the writer is taking her own advice. She reacts poorly to someone calling her out on her behaviour and instead of using it as a chance to reflect dedicates an article to admonishing her friend. Whatsmore, her 'wise and gentle' tone reads to me as classically passive aggressive.

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Thanks Jay. Appreciate the challenge and your thoughts have been reflected similarly in comments above over the last year. It's so interesting to look back to who I was a year ago and realise both how differently I do relationships, conversations and what learnings I pull from them today as opposed to a year ago. Whilst parts of what you've had to say I now agree with, I still feel many of the lessons hold true. It's easy to scape goat me as a writer of course and online forums such as this allow you to share your opinion (as they should, fair is fair), but even with more than a year of intense personal growth into a woman now who would write about these lessons in a completely different way now, I love reading your criticism as it helps me see that I absolutely still believe 100% that we are ONLY responsible for our own feelings and reactions. Thanks for your reflections. Whilst I learnt a lot in these exchanges with those friends way back then, I learnt more in finding a way to write about them and even more in reading through and considering how I wanted to reply to each comment. So in a backward kinda way, thanks.

  44. Marie says:

    I am grateful for the title of this article because it calls on our ability to be conscious. Sometimes we react without consciously seeing its effects. Similarly, we may talk without conscious sight of how it may manifest for another. In the article, both examples were of friends waiting a considerable amount of time to approach someone after they felt unconscious words were spoken. When we react, it is often emotionally illicited in the moment. Both friends the author illustrates as “aware”, wait a length of time to Respond to words they felt were unconsciously spoken. The author goes on to say both friends were under stress as if that made them unaccountable. This line of thinking lacks compassion and shifts the blame away from the speaker. How can we evaluate our thoughts and feelings if we do not empathize with friends who politely wait MONTHs to express how our words made them feel? Awareness and compassion are not retroactive, it is passive understanding without REacting to the desire to assert our feelings always, especially when friends are under the weather, stressed, or in a time of crisis. If a friend politely waits to speak with me, I may question why they did not feel they could approach me. It seems they waited to Respond to avoid reacting to words that may not have been intended to hurt. In the same light, children speak words without intention to hurt, but we teach boundaries to avoid hurtful, awkward mishaps of a young mind. I would thank my friends for widening my perspective and teaching boundaries because we are still children on some level after all.

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Appreciate your reply Marie. Thank you. Whilst it challenges me, I appreciate the time and gentle space this reply came from. How I wish I had these insights more than a year ago. But then, maybe I did, and wasn't ready to hear them. So much wisdom in this comment. May anyone reading this article take time to read this comment, twice.

  45. BlondeMamma_82 says:

    Sorry, but your article just comes off as totally arrogant and pretentious! It seems to me that you need to do a fair bit of "self-reflection," and strengthen your own EQ, before you go trying to give others advice on a topic that you clearly don't put into practise for yourself, nor even completely understand!!

    • carolinesouthwell says:

      Thanks BlondeMamma82. The woman I was more than a year ago when I wrote this has had lots of time to reflect and grow, or rather continue to grow as it's been a journey and that journey never ends. Of course, I do continue to teach about EQ as I strengthen my own awareness and understanding. And the place I write from reflects that of course. And it's nice to have people triggered enough by this article again and again, so I have reason to keep revisiting and to see how far I've come since then. All the best.

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