“Pick your battles,” is an oft-heard piece of advice given for significant others, parents, and all other types of relationships. We all get angry sometimes, but the reality of life is that we simply cannot always act on it (nor should we). Here are five tips for how to pick your battles. I also created a flow chart for you to use in the future to guide you through the decision-making process.
How to Pick Your Battles
1. Count to 10
I’m sure you have heard it before, but it really is a useful tool though during a knee-jerk reaction to something. Take the time to count to 10 and take a few deep, grounding breaths. Highly emotional settings get us physically ramped up as well, so this is your opportunity to calm yourself down and act with intention. After the count of 10, are you still as upset?
2. Ask Yourself These Questions
While implementing the 10 count above, use this time to ask yourself a few reflection questions too. Is this really something that is so distressing it needs to be addressed? Is this about the situation or is this person a button pusher? Am I making this personal? Asking yourself questions will get you thinking critically again. This can re-engage the more rational part of your brain and help you be more mindful of your words and actions.
3. Ignore But Don’t Enable
Ignoring versus enabling is a fine line to walk. Ignoring someone or something that is bothering you is sometimes necessary. There are annoying things that are out of our control that we have to cope with. Ignoring is a viable option for situations that are of low importance or unlikely to reoccur. Sometimes ignoring can even help eliminate the behaviour if it was done with the goal of getting attention. However, enabling will perpetuate the problem. By not responding in an enabling way, you may be showing your acceptance or allowance of unacceptable behaviour.
4. Work Toward a Solution, Not Winning
If you do decide this “battle” is important and worthwhile, then ensure you are working toward a solution. A quotation I always try to keep in mind is, “Let’s not forget it’s you and me versus the problem. Not you versus me.” You are not “battling” a person, you are battling the situation. The goal of conflict resolution is to collaborate together to find something that works for everyone. Having a collaborative mindset beforehand will help you speak and act with intention. Also, solving a problem (not changing a person) will keep it from becoming personal.
5. Think Ahead
It can be helpful to think about your values and priorities ahead of time while you are calm and removed from any conflict. Then if a situation arises, you can allow these values guide your decision to respond or not. You may even want to brainstorm some situations that could be likely to come up perhaps at an upcoming family get together or other situation relevant to your current life. Having already thought about these situations and your responses can help prevent your emotions from running the show when you are experiencing it in the moment.
Pick Your Battles Flow Chart
I created a flow chart to guide you through the process of deciding if you’re confronted with a “battle” you want to engage in or not based off of the tips in this post.
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How do you pick your battles with others?