Don’t Be a Jerk!

The knee-jerk reaction: an uncontrolled, automatic physical response to a stimulus.

This term is also used for automatic, uncontrolled speech and behavior. Obviously, the actual knee-jerk is truly uncontrollable. However, in the area of speech and behavior, that is not the case. The knee-jerk reaction in behavior and speech, which we also refer to as impulsiveness, can be controlled. In fact learning to control impulsive speech and actions an important part of growing up.

The failure to learn and apply this kind of self-control can lead to problems. Addiction, anger management and poor eating habits, to name just a few. 

But haven’t we all experienced this, even in a small way? Anyone who has shopped at a supermarket may have done a little impulse buying now and then. You go to the store to pick up a few items, and you leave with more than you intended to buy. 

Impulsiveness is natural for children. The wise parent corrects the behavior by teaching patience and delayed gratification and giving proper consequences when impulsive behavior makes things harder for others. Chances are that an adult who can not control his/her speech or behavior was not given proper instruction as a child. Fortunately, there is plenty of evidence that people can learn self-control in adulthood.

Here is one example of a practical way to stoop impulsive speech. A married couple came for counseling. One of their problems was that they both used foul language when they got angry. Sometimes the language got personal and ugly. Angry, ugly words can not be un-said, and an apology only goes so far. I offered a way of stopping this for good. They were to buy two big glass screw-top jars, and to mark the jars with their first names. Whenever they used a swear word or an ugly, mean word toward the other, they were to put a $5.00 bill into their spouse’s jar. Just talking about this technique made them laugh, and so they agreed this would be a good idea. These folks were motivated to follow through because they wanted to save the marriage. 

When it comes to making difficult changes, it often comes down to motivation. In addition it is essential to understand the problem. If you view the knee-jerk reaction as a bad habit, you are much more likely to believe that you can change it. If you see it as “part of me”, it’s almost impossible to change it. 

The good news is that anyone who is truly committed to self-improvement can change a bad habit, such as impulsiveness. It takes time, determination and a lot of practice, but it can be done. If this speaks to you, and you would like to explore this for yourself, please do not hesitate to reach out. Call me at (219) 309-3928. It would be an honor if I could be of service.

For more thoughts click Self-Control

Thanks for reading!