the neutralizer



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This article was excerpted from the book, Principles For Personal Growth by Adam Khan. Buy it now here.


WHAT'S THE FIRST THING you do when you get a flat tire or when you burn your dinner or when one of your kids gets an F? When something goes wrong, you say something — to yourself or to someone else. If you’re upset, you think or say emotionally loaded expressions, and those expressions intensify your upsetting feelings.

When you find yourself thinking or saying a thought like “This is terrible,” you can change it to a less emotional description — for example, “This is inconvenient.” Notice how different the two statements are, emotionally speaking. Try saying each statement to yourself and check how different they feel.

It seems like a simple change to make, and it is. But it can change a setback from a catastrophe to just annoying, at least in your experience.

The emotionally loaded comment doesn’t help you. It may even hinder you from dealing with the situation rationally. The emotionally neutral statement “This is inconvenient,” leads to an emotionally neutral response — in other words, a reasonable, practical response.

Try to become emotionally neutral when an emotionally charged response is counterproductive. Notice what you’re thinking and try to make the same comment as a bland, computerlike description of the situation rather than a comment charged with emotion.

Instead of “I hate her,” say “What she did interfered with my personal goals.”
Rather than “Oh this is just great!” said with a bitter tone of voice, try something like “This isn’t very good,” said in an emotionless monotone.
Change “#@*!#*#!!” to “I would have preferred it turned out differently.”
When you’re speaking to someone, your neutrality can help prevent the other person from getting upset, and it’ll keep your own arousal to a minimum.
Instead of complaining to your spouse “I am sick to death of car problems,” try something like “Maybe it’s time to get another car.”
Instead of yelling at your teenage son “I’ve had it up to here with you,” how about saying this in an emotionally neutral tone of voice: “I’ve told you twice not to do that. Next time you do it, I will take away your TV for a week.”

NEUTRALIZE THE NEGATIVE. It’s a simple technique, but with practice it can level out some of the downturns in this roller-coaster ride we call life without in any way interfering with the upturns.

Describe upsetting situations to yourself in emotionally neutral words.

This article was excerpted from the book, Principles For Personal Growth by Adam Khan. Buy it now here.

learn more about reducing negative interactions with others

Author: Adam Khan
author of the books, Self-Help Stuff That Works and Antivirus For Your Mind
and creator of the blog:
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