Day 16: Prison Break - Breaking Reactive Responses

Better Relationships
Breaking Free From Yelling

You are trying to get the laundry done, cook dinner, get clothes ready for tomorrow and you have already talked to your kids 3 times about getting in the shower. No one is listening!

You are having a discussion with your spouse for what feels like the 100th time about the same thing you always argue about and you can’t understand why they don’t get it! You’re not speaking another language if they would simply L-I-S-T-E-N to what you’re saying!

That’s it! Your co-worker has thrown you under the bus for the last time! It’s time for them to get a piece of your mind!

THEN IT HAPPENS. You explode into a huge fit of frustration, irritation, anger and you start yelling!!!! You know you shouldn’t yell - but at this point it feels uncontrollable, because no one understands you until you yell!


Yelling is a destructive pattern. Yelling does not solve the problem, it actually makes the problem worse. Yelling is not getting your point across, because most of the times when we yell our feelings are still unclear. It’s easy to get frustrated and yell, because we think yelling has no consequences or effects. We are wrong. There is something demeaning about yelling at a person. Think about a time when you were yelled at by someone you cared about. How were you feeling? Were you surprised? Did it hurt your feelings? Did you understand why the person started to yell? Did it make you want to react by yelling back? Did you feel compelled to sort out the problem?

Most likely the last time you got yelled at, you weren’t happy about it and things probably didn’t end well. If it was your boss who yelled at you, you probably felt undervalued. If it was your spouse, you probably felt unloved. If it was a parent, you probably felt like less of a person. Yelling is not an easy pattern to break! Here are 4 suggestions for breaking free from yelling. This change will not happen overnight (much like every other task in this series), but practice makes perfect…

#1 Create a safe space! This takes us all the way back to the beginning of this series. So if you hopped in mid-series, pop on back to Day 2 and 3 to read more on how to create a safe space. Creating a safe space means that you are being proactive about communicating your feelings with your spouse, children and/or friends. If practiced often enough, it should help to reduce and eventually eliminate yelling!

#2 Study them! Similar to our conversation in Day 8’s post (Silence of the Lambs) you must learn your spouse or child’s style of communication and behavior patterns. This will help to determine the way you respond to them. Every action or lack thereof is a form of communication. If you observe that you have a quieter child that tends to “freeze up” (i.e. they begin to cry and stop talking) when you raise your voice, then your approach for confronting them should be different than your approach with a strong-willed child. If your spouse tends to stop talking and dismiss the fight when you start yelling, then you need to deal with issues differently. During a time when you are not arguing and the tension is low, figure out a way to talk about how you both prefer to be confronted.

#3 Be consistent! It is hard to do this, but it can be done! It’s extremely hard to maintain your composure when your toddler is screaming bloody murder in the middle of the grocery store or when your teen’s severely sour mood begins to rub off on you! You will lose it occasionally in the process of correcting this behavior. Why? Because changing habits is hard work!

#4 Be the thermometer! Since you are the one reading this, you are probably the one most interested in doing the work it takes to improve your relationship. This means you have the task of being the thermometer and controlling the temperature of the conversation. Regardless of whether the other person’s temper escalates, you have to maintain a calm demeanor, tone of voice and try your best to stay respectful. If you feel like you aren’t able to do this, it’s ok to pause the conversation and come back later after you have gathered your emotions and put them in check! You may have noticed that I have included a sign up form at the bottom of this post for specific tips to de-escalate angry kids. These are not conventional tips and they will cause you to fight yourself to remain calm, but they work! I use them every day in my position as a Therapist working with traumatized youth.

The first few times you try these suggestions, it will feel unnatural and things may not go so well. Building good relationships takes time and continuous, consistent effort. If you do the work, you will see the reward! If you are a recovered “Yellaholic” comment on this post what helped you break free from yelling! Your comment could be helpful to someone!

Tomorrow’s Post: When Suicide Becomes a Family Member

From The Heart Counseling giveaway

Day 17: When Suicide Becomes a Family Member

Day 15: 6 Ideas for Date Night!