Why do people snap? Say hurtful things? React in ways that don’t seem appropriate? 

Well, some are just mean or toxic!   Snapping, saying hurtful things or reacting with strong emotions can damage relationships at work and at home. Given the stress levels that many operate under, it seems that people tend to lose their cool more often. Let’s understand what happens in these situations where emotions are let loose.

When people get emotionally triggered., the limbic system of the brain reacts almost instantly. The limbic brain  is responsible for basic emotional processes such as joy, fear, anger, disgust, or sadness and is designed to help the body react to ‘danger’.

In a relationship context, danger could be anything that impacts our perceived security or stability. The amygdala senses ‘danger’ and shoots an emergency distress signal to the brain and body, and there is an instant reaction – often times inappropriate in its intensity or content or both.

This reaction could be an inappropriate comment, a raised voice, and in extreme cases physical violence. It happens before the same information reaches the neocortex (the thinking and processing part of the brain) and a person can give a considered, more appropriate response. This is why we automatically feel sad, afraid or happy without conscious thought.

In some people the limbic system runs overtime due to their inability to manage stress or deal with deeper issues, and it can make them difficult to deal with. Since the emotional brain (limbic) is not able to think or reason, its rapid evaluations can be imprecise; and so one needs to pay attention to and reflect on one’s emotions – and understand what’s going on beneath them. Easier said than done!

However, working with a coach or a coaching supervisor provides a safe and confidential space where you can explore what’s happening within you and/or in your key relationships. It can make you more effective in working with others – without the need to change them! 

Connect with us on ajayglobalcoach@gmail.com for more details.

(Reference: Emotion-Focused Therapy: Coaching Clients to Work through their Feelings by Leslie S. Greenberg)

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