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Dealing with the little things – I don’t shout.

One of the most important things I’ve learned in my life is that it’s not always about what we say it’s often about how we say it. It’s difficult at times to understand why people react in ways we don’t expect, and many reasons can impact that but quite often it is actually about the way we said it rather than, the words themselves and what we meant. This can be really difficult and confusing when our intentions weren’t to upset anyone or cause conflict.

Understanding what drives our reactions and in turn, our tone of voice was one of the things that have helped me most in my life and allowed me to build better relationships and deal with situations in different ways helping me create better results.

Throughout my life, I have had people tell me not to shout at them.

The statement for me was always really confusing as I rarely shout and when I do it’s usually to get someone’s attention. Like my son when he was upstairs. Unlike a lot of people when I am angry, I don’t generally raise my voice, in fact when I normally become quieter in the way I speak.

What I had recognised was that in certain circumstances especially at work I would sit back and listen to what was going on when the conversation didn’t impact me or my area but found that when I felt someone was being treated unfairly and was not able to defend themselves that I would be having a conversation with myself in my head about not getting involved as it had nothing to do with me. The sense of injustice about the situation would rise and keep rising and at some point, I would jump in to support the individual.

Leading to me getting feedback about not shouting which left me really confused and feeling unfairly treated. As I knew I hadn’t shouted especially after I had had feedback as I was now purposedly ensuring I didn’t shout yet I still got the feedback.

Initially, this just made the situation worse, and I started to feel like a victim of other people’s inability to manage or take on constructive challenges. As I know now this response didn’t help the situation any and just led to a vicious circle where I felt worse.

The Lightbulb Moment

The lightbulb moment was where I finally understood what was going on. I was right I wasn’t shouting but I was altering my tone of voice and the impact of that was to make others feel like I was shouting because of the way I said things in terms of tone of voice, directness, forcefulness/passion – It wasn’t what I was saying or level of voice at all.

My tone expressed I wasn’t happy, and others equated that with shouting.

What we really don’t realise is that when we are holding back any form of emotion, be it frustration, anger, irritation, or anxiety which can be caused by work, relationships, trauma, etc it builds the levels of stress in our bodies. Or if we are not at our best through, lack of sleep, water, food, exercise, etc can all take a toll on our mental well-being and ability to deal with day-to-day situations. Which all can lead to us reacting more strongly to situations than we realise.

A simple example of this would be if you walk into a meeting and notice me clicking my pen top and it irritates/distracts you. If at the beginning of the meeting you asked me to stop you are likely to say something like, “Kath would you mind stopping clicking your pen as its distracting me” in a calm polite tone of voice invoking a response of “yes, of course, I hadn’t realised I was doing it” and I would put the pen down. The if during the meeting I happened to absently pick the pen up and start again all you would need to say is “Kath, pen” and I would likely respond with “sorry I forgot” and put it down again.

Both of us would not be phased by either exchange and feel calm and relaxed.

However, if you noticed it and didn’t say anything, because you thought it was minor, while I continued clicking the pen top throughout the meeting your level of irritation/frustration/distraction would continue to rise. Then at the point where it had built up to the point you needed to say something. Your response would be likely to be stronger in tone and express some if not all of your emotions.


At this point, you are more likely to say “KATH CAN YOU STOP DOING THAT IT'S REALLY ANNOYING” the response you are likely to get in response again will be stronger in tone and emotion as I may well feel attacked verbally so a more defensive response along the lines of “OK, there’s no need to have a go at me you could have just asked I didn’t even know I was doing it.” This is what is likely to happen.

In the second exchange, you can see how both parties are now more emotional in their response.

The reason we react like this is that we don’t speak up and say what is bothering us when we feel it’s something small or we think others might think we are being petty/picky, so we hold on to the emotion and as things repeat or other things happen the stress builds so when we do speak up we are more emotional and stressed so the response is stronger and often inappropriate to the situation. We may find that we are taking out the frustrations and stresses of the day out on people close to us rather than dealing with the situations or speaking to the individuals concerned when they are minor.

If we speak up and deal with the little things as they happen, then it prevents us from building them up and affecting the way we approach things. This can prevent the outcomes/reactions we imagine, or fear become reality.

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