“But it’s the principle!” How many times have we heard people scream that phrase in the midst of an argument? Or, how many times have we said or wanted to say it when we have been wronged in some way?
It’s human nature to be outraged at perceived injustice, and living in the world we live, we see numerous instances of injustice on a regular basis. Feeling that we have been slighted or even seeing someone else being wronged can stir up a hornet’s nest of emotions. So, how do we deal with these situations when they arise?
Here is a plan we can implement that may help us navigate these difficult situations:
TAKE A BREATH
TABLE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS
TAKE A BREATH
When you perceive that you have been wronged in some way, it is natural to feel a wave of emotions, including anger, frustration, disgust, amongst others. It is important to notice these feelings and take a few deep breaths before reacting. This gives you time to engage your reason and logic, and not be dragged into action by your emotions. However, emotions can be helpful, so be sure to observe and take note of what you are feeling.
Take time to consider the potential goals in the situation. Is there something you want? Do you want to maintain or improve a relationship? Do you want to stick up for yourself? Selecting a goal ahead of time can really help you act effectively because it guides your behavior, instead of going in guns blazing with no plan of what you want or how to get it. How do you know if it was a success if you haven’t defined what success looks like?
Think for a moment if this situation seems familiar. It might be possible that you have had a similar experience in the past. Some people find themselves in the same sort of places on a regular basis. If this is the case, be careful to remember how you reacted and what resulted from that behavior. If you got in a heated argument, how did you feel after? What was the aftermath? Was it a positive or negative experience? Remembering prior experiences can be very helpful in directing you how to act in the future.
Run through your possible responses in your head and play out these hypothetical scenarios to see what the potential consequences may be. There is quite a bit of speculation used in this exercise, but try to be as realistic as you can in predicting what the outcomes of the different possible paths might be.
Be sure to note the emotional consequences along with the practical consequences. It may feel good in the moment to tell off that police officer for some perceived misconduct, but you may experience negative consequences that outweigh that feeling. While deciding on a plan of action, refer back to your objectives to make sure you decide on a plan that is most likely to lead to your desired outcome.
Once you select a plan of action, it is time to act. Because you have already decided on how you are going to handle this situation, there is no need to improvise. Stick to your plan! This is not the time to call an audible and go off script. You have taken time to consider your goals, past experiences, and possible outcomes. Trust yourself and try your best to accept what happens.
TABLE YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS
The most important aspect of acting effectively is putting aside your need to be or feel right. There is a saying among attorneys that the worst reason a client can give for bringing a case is the principle. People who are obsessed with having to be right are never satisfied and will never compromise.
This is not usually a recipe for happiness. Acting strategically instead of willfully is often the best way to experience positive consequences. However, there certainly are many times when you should not be willing to compromise. If everyone always compromised or capitulated and never risked well-being for something bigger, the world would be much worse off. But picking which hill to die on is very important.
If you are not selective in this process, you could end up dying on many hills many times a day over minor squabbles and inconveniences. If you decide to table the righteousness and act effectively, be sure to you are willing to accept that your perceived injustice will probably not be addressed.
The support from a mental health professional can be useful when practicing these skills. New York Behavioral Health is here for you. Feel free to reach out to us if you’d like more information. You can also schedule an appointment right here on our website.