Do you ever wake up at 3:00 am and say, “Oh! I should have said X?” It is so frustrating not to say what you should say when you are in the middle of a conflict or a situation rife with anxiety. It is annoying to get the perfect response hours later when it is much too late to say or do anything.
If you find that you blank out in stressful situations and have no idea what to say in the moment, you are not alone. The stress levels spike, and although our mind is racing like a duck on the water, we can’t seem to find the right thing to say. You know you are capable of saying the right thing, only it is hours later. The fight or flight response is giving you no choice, and your brain has taken flight.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”u_7tc” via=”yes” ]The fight or flight response is giving you no choice, and your brain has taken flight. Check this out to find out what to do so it doesn’t happen.[/ctt]
Here are my top five tips to follow so you don’t blank out the next time you have a conflict or heated discussion.
- Adjust your expectations. In the same way we discussed last week how to deal with crying in stressful situations https://on-the-right-track.com/what-to-do-when-you-cry-when-you-are-angry/, we need to accept that this is the way your body deals with anxiety. If you keep expecting yourself to miraculously stop blanking out when you are anxious, you will constantly be anxious in case you blank out. Like crying, it is a vicious cycle that is self-perpetuating.
Admit to yourself that your fight or flight response is flight. Although we will discuss what you can do about it, you need to expect that you may not remember all the steps the next time a stressful situation comes along. If you can remember only this point the next time, it is a great starting point. Hopefully, the following time you can remember the next point, but don’t put more pressure on yourself to get it perfectly from this point on. That will cause you more anxiety, and we already know (and admit) that anxiety is what causes you to blank out in the first place.
- Take a deep breath. When you would typically jump in and try to say something, instead, take a long, deep breath. In those precious seconds, try to force yourself to relax and collect your thoughts. By keeping yourself calm and relaxed, your brain might be able to find what it wants to do as the anxiety isn’t blocking it.
Don’t hesitate to say, “my mind has gone blank, please give me a minute,” if that is what has happened. This will buy you a few more seconds to hopefully lower your anxiety and find the words you are looking for. If you don’t find them, that’s okay. If you do, even better. Silence is not disastrous.
Often when we are at a loss for words, we think the other person is judging us. In reality, they are only thinking about what they want to say next. They aren’t judging you, so if needed, give yourself a bit more time.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”Kb08M” via=”yes” ]Often when we are at a loss for words, we think the other person is judging us. In reality, they are only thinking about what they want to say next.[/ctt]
- Ask open-ended questions. If you cannot think what you want to say, be sure to ask questions instead. While the other person is talking, it is possible your anxiety might lessen a bit, and you’ll be able to say what it is you wanted to say in the first place. You are really buying yourself a little time by doing this.
- Create cheat sheets for yourself if it is a planned discussion. Maybe your anxiety kicks in when you need to make a presentation to the team, and you blank you. Perhaps it is when you have a 1:1 meeting with your supervisor about your performance that you can think of nothing you want to say. Create a cheat sheet with keywords or phrases that you can have in your hands. There is nothing wrong with needing a little prompt. Use the prompt, and you may find that once you start, you have no problem saying whatever you wanted to say in the first place. You don’t want to try to memorize what you want to say (in an argument or a presentation), as your anxiety will kick in as soon as one word is off script.
- Shut off your inner dialogue. Sometimes we blank out because we listen to the conversation in our head and not what the other person is sharing. When you catch yourself talking to yourself, you need to be more engaged with the other person (even if they are yelling at you) and not with the little voice inside your head. When this happens, we get overwhelmed by all the chatter (the other person and the one in your head), and the anxiety causes us to not follow or respond to either conversation.
Instead, repeat back what they have said to you (paraphrase, not parrot phrase) so you can stay focused. Ask questions as mentioned before and give them your undivided attention.
Your fight or flight response will need some training, and the only way you can train it is to allow these uncomfortable situations to occur and not run away from them because you are afraid to blank out.
One step at a time, and before you know it, you’ll be able to control that blanking-out response.