by June Silny | Featured Contributor
I felt like a mom standing in line waiting to pay for $300 worth of groceries, as I scavenged through my purse searching for my lost wallet, while a four-year-old child pulled on my skirt, crying out loud for the toy he wanted.
I didn’t know how much longer I could have kept my lips tightly sealed to prevent myself from screaming, “Stop this right now!” I couldn’t. I was in a coaching session with a 30-year-old.
I wanted to tell her what I was really thinking; you’re acting like a child. Grow up already! However, I knew I had to act professionally. If I didn’t sit on my hands, I felt as if I would give her a good old-fashioned 1960’s slap across the face to snap her out of the temper tantrum she was having. Did I say temper tantrum, the kind that 4 year-olds have? Then it hit me as if someone smacked me across the face… this adult was having a temper tantrum. I sat there looking calm while my insides felt like chemicals boiling in a high school lab class. I watched the horror movie unfold (without any popcorn to calm me) as this demure young woman morphed into an alien creature right before my eyes.
I thought I was acting calm and professional. I tried to encourage her, telling her that I believed in her and felt certain she could make a better life for herself, but I guess that wasn’t what she wanted to hear. That’s when the screaming began. The wind from her forceful words pushed my back into the chair. Each sentence that came out of her grew louder and louder, “You don’t understand, I’m trying so hard to find a job, it’s not my fault, why don’t you believe me? My life is a mess. No one listens to me.”
I used every compassion skill I had learned. I kept whispering in my own ear:
1. Imagine how she feels. Stand in her shoes, no matter how dirty or smelly they are.
2. Maintain awareness of her emotional limits. She’s doing the best she can (even though it looks like she’s doing nothing).
3. Remember- this is really hard for her.
4. Love, support, and encourage (my mantra).
The job she loved had recently ended leaving her with few marketable skills. To make the situation worse, her extremely high tolerance for rock bottom keeps her living in la-la land. Even though she has hit bottom several times, it never jolts her into changing the way she mismanages her life. Living without lights in her house or gas in her car didn’t make her say, “Wow, this stinks. I don’t want to do this anymore.” You’d think that when her cell phone was shut off- and she wouldn’t be able to post a picture of last night’s karaoke on Instagram- that she’d get shocked into reality, but nope, that didn’t happen either.
Raised in a financially comfortable home, this upper-middle-class young woman was living in poverty. Her parents had refused to help her, thinking that “tough love” would be her wake-up call, but she slept through that alarm too. Nothing was working. Her family was frustrated, scared for her future, and so was I, but my job was to help her.
As much as I wanted to have a temper tantrum also, I knew I couldn’t, because:
1. I would regret it later.
2. It would not produce a positive outcome.
3. It would cause her to shut down completely.
4. It would not help her.
5. I had to act professionally.
Adults have temper tantrums too.
Temper tantrums come in all shapes, sizes, and forms. It’s easy to recognize them in a four-year-old, but when they come from grown-ups they appear in disguise. They are defense mechanisms that are meant to push people away.
Adult temper tantrums are a form of bullying.
Adult bullying usually appears in verbal form. Words become weapons. They can be damaging and painful. Adult bullies use harsh, cruel words to dominate the conversation or humiliate another person. It is a manipulative behavior to gain control and steer the situation in the direction they desire.
7 Things to Remember:
1. The screaming angry person feels much worse than you do.
2. This has nothing to do with you (even though it’s coming right at you).
3. Be aware that anger is a tool of manipulation. When you realize that someone is attempting to manipulate you, it gives you a chance to disengage and step back from the situation without getting emotionally hooked into it.
4. Work situations are different from family relationships. Deal with them differently.
5. Use a keen sense of discernment. Go slowly. Think about your options.
6. If appropriate, align yourself with the bully. Let him/her know you are on their side. You are there to help. Acknowledge that you feel bad for them. When appropriate, ask and tell- “ How can I help you? I am on your side.”
7. Do not engage! Step back. Think before you speak. Sometimes, it’s necessary to walk away. Gain your composure and then re-visit the situation at a later time.
Relationships are challenging. They appear in business and our personal lives. One thing we can be sure of- situations will continuously appear to test our patience, ability to be compassionate, and how we control our own emotions.
The best way to manage other people; is to be the best manager of your self.
June Silny – Happy Relationships Expert – from junesilny.com
You’ll know where June is from as soon as you hear her speak- she’s definitely a New Yorker. Even though she left there at a young age and grew up in Miami Beach, Florida- she still goes for cawfee to tawk to her friends after she walks her dawg.
Her creative passion steered her through many exciting careers.
Starting out as a hairstylist, she was a managing business partner in a salon but also worked in film, theater, and the opera as hairstylist and make-up artist. She also purchased a Jazzercise franchise and became an instructor. Searching for calm and serenity, she taught yoga and meditation. Years later she started a business where she designed and crafted trendy fashion jewelry.
Now she is at home in her soul writing about the life lessons that are hidden away in the mundane events of everyday living. She became a student of the ancient mystical wisdom of Mussar (a spiritual personal excellence program) in 2009 when she began blogging and teaching what she was learning.
June lives in hot and sunny Miami with her husband, children and extended family (not all in the same house- but happily- all in the same city, which certainly gives her plenty to write about).
Find June on Twitter and LinkedIn
One Reply to “7 Things To Remember When An Adult Is Acting Like A Four-Year-Old by @LivingOutLoud_”
Jenn @Home is Where...
you are so right, adult tantrums are a form of bullying. I dealt with an adult tantrum in my 50year old uncle this Summer and as I faced him I realized he was trying to manipulate me with his anger and physical show-slamming things,stomping…he didn’t want to do something that was his responsibility and thought I would offer to do it if he had a toddler tantrum. It was truly one of the most pathetic things I have witnessed. I agree also that we have to disengage and not step into the emotion of the moment.
great post, hope your client managed to turn things around.