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Understanding Behavior and Relaxation Techniques

Sometimes, understanding why someone is behaving in a particular way is enough to ease your anger a little. Let’s talk a bit about passive, manipulative, assertive, and aggressive behaviors.

Aggressive Behavior

Definition

  • Needs and wants are taken care of in a forceful and self-serving way.

Characteristics

  • Self-serving
  • Demanding
  • Dogmatic
  • Competitive
  • Pushy
  • Uses intimidation, power, and status
  • Insensitive
  • Strong need to control and dominate others
  • Fears rejection
  • Impatient
  • Temperamental

Major Consequences

  • May accomplish personal desire and goals.
  • Tends to alienate people, create distrust and tension, and undermine the ability to establish lasting and healthy relationships.

Manipulative or Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Definition

  • Needs and wants are taken care of in an indirect, cunning, deceptive, and crafty way with ulterior motives in mind.

Characteristics

  • Game player (using pouting, looking hurt, silence, dropping hints, flirting, giving or withholding attention or caring, and other indirect methods to manipulate people)
  • Uses double messages (say one thing and mean another)
  • Hides real feelings and intentions
  • Inward feelings and outward expressions often incongruent
  • Rebellious
  • Gets defensive and angry when caught manipulating
  • Strong need for approval and attention
  • Insecure but wears façade
  • Distrusts others

Major Consequences

  • May be successful in manipulating others in indirect ways.
  • Undermines credibility and trust.
  • Causes them to lose touch with real self and real feelings.

Passive Behavior

Definition

  • Needs and wants are taken care of by suppressing them or maneuvering others to take care of them.
  • Also use manipulative behaviors to get others to take care of them.

Characteristics

  • Denies needs, subordinates them to others, or manipulates others to take care of them
  • Often plays martyr role
  • Creates conditions in which others will take the lead or make decisions
  • Follower
  • Tries to do what they think others expect of them
  • Lacks self-confidence
  • Easily intimidated and controlled by others
  • Indecisive
  • Moody
  • Occasionally cashes in on stored-up anger and feelings
  • Uncertain about who they are

Major Consequences

  • May result in some needs getting met.
  • Often results in sacrificing needs, getting them met in inappropriate ways, and the loss of identity and ability to take care of self.

Assertive Behavior

Definition

  • Needs and wants are taken care of by knowing, accepting, and acting on them in constructive, straightforward, and authentic ways.

Characteristics

  • Caring
  • Genuine
  • Sensitive to the needs and feelings of others
  • Selfless
  • Expresses needs and feelings in constructive and straightforward ways
  • Persistent without being offensive
  • Levels and confronts from caring and reasonable position
  • Good sense of timing and judgment about when to assert themselves
  • Self-confident
  • Calm in a crisis

Major Consequences

  • Able to know and take care of needs in a constructive way without doing so at the expense of others.

Relaxation Techniques

It’s essential that you learn to relax if you want to reduce your anger levels. If stress seems to be wearing you down and you are having trouble bouncing back, you may need to consult your doctor. However, for the usual day to day stressors that we encounter, here are some quick, easy ways that you can lower your stress levels quickly.

Deep Breathing

Loosen your clothes, close your eyes, mentally relax your body, and take ten or more deep breaths. Your goal is to breathe into the bottom of your lungs (where the oxygen is readily absorbed), not the usual upper lung breathing we do. Put your hand on your stomach and feel it move as you inhale to make sure you are getting the air in good and deep. We call this diaphragmatic breathing because you are using your diaphragm muscle to breathe. When people are experiencing anxiety, they are most often breathing into the upper area of their lungs rather than the bottom.

Each time you exhale, count silently: “one,” after the first breath, “two,” after the second breath, etc., up to at least ten. If you lose count, or find yourself working on thoughts as they pass through your mind, start your count over again. When you are finished, you should feel more calm and relaxed. (Your blood pressure will go down temporarily too.) If you’re in a meeting, on the phone, or dealing with a customer, count in your head.

Visualize

Use positive imagery to boost your mood. In your mind, picture a place that you love. Feel the sunshine on your face, or the breeze on your skin. See the things that you love to see in great detail. If you are getting ready for a presentation or an interview, visualize yourself performing it perfectly. This way, when you get to the event your mind thinks you’ve done it before, so it will be even easier than the last time you did it. (This is a technique used by athletes and performance coaches.)

Music

Music has the power to soothe, or to give us energy. It actually has healing power. Find a type of music that relaxes you and play it when you need to calm down. When you feel tired and listless, play some rousing music (rather than relying on caffeine or other stimulants) to give you a pick-up.

Acupressure and Massage

Holding a fingertip to the point of most pain or tension and pressing very hard into the offending muscle for up to a minute can avert a headache or relieve tension. Have a friend or spouse learn how to do massage therapy and/or acupressure on tense muscles, since daily treatment is better than once or twice a month.

Laughter

Laughter is the best medicine of all. A good belly laugh can lower blood pressure, slow your adrenaline, and reverse the stomach acid that comes with negative responses. Be on the lookout for jokes and cartoons you can share with family and friends. For a smaller dose, find a cartoon or picture that always makes you smile and post it near your desk. (Just make sure it’s appropriate for all audiences!)

Replace Worry with Problem Solving

Focus on what you can do, and then go ahead and do it. Chronic worriers tend to focus on what they cannot do, what should be happening, or how things are going wrong. Replace worry with problem solving so that you identify where you can step in. Then, stop waiting for the perfect time and do it.

Resilience

Each stressful experience that you have prepares you to deal with one in the future. The more resilient you become, the less of an impact each of these events has on your mind and body. Lots of us go to great lengths to avoid stress, and although avoidance initially feels like you are doing alright, the reality is that stressful things come up in our life all the time. The better we are at handling them, the more resilient we become, and the healthier we can be.

Each stressful experience leads us into a cycle of confusion and anguish. If we stay with those feelings in an attempt to minimize the impact the stress will have on our life, things actually get worse. But if we make a decision to deal with those circumstances by problem solving and adapting, we develop resilience and can enjoy life more and be more successful.

As you encounter more stressors in life (and we all do), we can rely on the experience we’ve had in dealing with negative circumstances in order to cope. We get more effective at managing that cycle of confusion, anguish, problem solving, adapting, and moving on.