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Managing Emotions

People's behavior occurs for a purpose. They are looking for ways to belong, feel significant, and self-protect. When people perceive a threat to their self-esteem, a downward spiral can begin. People can be led into destructive behaviors in the faulty belief that this will gain them a sense of power or significance. How we respond to their difficult behaviors can determine how entrenched these become. The secret is to break out of the spiral by supporting their real needs without supporting their destructive faulty beliefs, and alienating patterns of reaction.


Difficult Behavior (and the Faulty Belief Behind It)


Seeking Attention
("I only belong when I am being noticed.")



Power Plays
("I only belong when I am in control, when no-one can boss me!")


Seeking Revenge
("I am significant only if I make others feel hurt like I do.")


Appear Inadequate
("I won't be hurt any more, only if I can convince others not to expect much from me.")

The Downard Spiral


You feel annoyed and react by coaxing. They stop briefly, and then resume behavior and demands, perhaps in a new way.



You feel provoked or threatened and react by fighting or giving in. Their aggression is intensified or they comply defiantly.


You feel hurt by them, and retaliate. They seek further revenge more strongly or with another weapon.


You give up, overwhelmed. They respond passively, show no improvement, and stay "victim".

Better Alternatives


Avoid undue attention. Give attention for positive Behavior especially when they are not making a bid for it. Support their real contribution and involvement.


Disengage from the struggle. Help them to use power constructively by enlisting co-operation. Support their self-worth and autonomy.

Convince them that you respect their needs. Build trusting relationships. Support their need for justice and fairness.


Encourage any positive attempt, no matter how small. Focus on assets. Provide bit-sized learning experiences they can succeed at. Support how they feel as a starting place for self-improvement.