How many times in your life have you dealt with a hothead? That is someone who overreacts and flies off the handle, doing so with some degree of intensity, consistency, and predictability, typically with minimal provocation. When faced with a hothead who occasionally or repeatedly blows off steam in your direction, how do you process the behavior and keep your cool?
Once you’ve spent time with a hothead, you learn to expect future over-the-top reactions. Their inappropriate intensity and lack of self-control may show up in limited or multiple scenarios. You may feel uncomfortable, even fearful and embarrassed around these people. They may be aggressive, passive with explosive tendencies, unable to appropriately handle stressful triggers, or lack healthy emotional and physical outlets.
These individuals may have developed a pattern of rage and relief to express emotions that are uncomfortable for them or to assert dominance over others. Some people feel regret afterward. Others do not, nor do they have compassion toward those on whom they unloaded. They may not be emotionally stable or mentally well; their unpredictable blowups are clear indications of their instability. When adults behave as hotheads it is a reflection of themselves. Yet their acting out can make others feel afraid, intimidated, or angry.
Some individuals realize that their reactivity does not match the situation and work to get a handle on it. Others do not take ownership or feel remorse. They are not interested in improving their behavior.
Often, children who act out are diagnosed with behavioral issues and poor impulse control. Impulse control helps individuals express themselves appropriately, make wise choices, create strong interpersonal bonds, and have the patience and self-control to wait one’s turn. According to Goleman (1995), “there is perhaps no psychological skill more fundamental than resisting impulse. It is the root of all emotional self-control, since all emotions, by their very nature, lead to one or another impulse to act. The root meaning of the word emotion, remember, is “to move.” When adults act out and lose self-control, it is expected that they have a greater mastery of emotions and effective coping skills.
Both children and adults are entitled to lose their temper sometimes. However, when losing it becomes the norm, and the effect hurts others in one’s path, it is necessary to learn a new way of managing explosive reactivity.
Here are some strategies to help you keep your cool around hotheads:
- Do all that you can to stay calm, centered, and at peace. You deserve it.
- Utilize healthy outlets when you feel stressed.
- Surround yourself with healthy people who can manage their emotions and impulses.
- Set limits or walk away as soon as someone unloads on you inappropriately. Take space when necessary to protect yourself. You are entitled to feel safe.
- Get support from your loved ones, close friends, and helping professionals if necessary.
- One way to keep your cool is to sit in the position of observer. When you can emotionally distance yourself and maintain a neutral presence, it helps you to stay centered in yourself.
- Do what keeps you feeling balanced. In addition to your personal and work responsibilities, you have an obligation to yourself to take care of you on every level. This includes your physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. When you make time to meet your own needs and rely on your support network, others’ behavior will affect you less.
Since you cannot control or change others, be willing to take responsibility for those with whom you spend time and interact. Be accountable for your words and actions. If you think you are a hothead, find someone to talk with and explore what is causing these outbursts. If there is an unresolved emotional trauma, lack of skill around self-expression, or chemical imbalance to blame, seek help with counseling and medication (if need be).
Discover and learn a more peaceful way to be in the world with others. Remember that being human is a multi-faceted job and a constant learning process. Keep your cool for your overall well-being and health.