Take a Deep Breath

Computers make it so easy for us to type quickly and press Send–perhaps too easy. We get excited about something and want to respond immediately. Ditto for when we’re angry. And there’s enough on the Internet to keep us boiling for years to come.

Never respond in anger

Whether you’re blogging, using Twitter, or emailing, there are professional provocateurs waiting to pounce. These are people who create conflict for the sake of conflict itself. Or maybe they’re just angry, unhappy people. Responding hastily to their bitter messages only escalates the conflict. It does nothing to make you look better, so it’s best just to ignore these types.

But what if the thing that made you angry comes from a non-hostile source? If you type up a response that includes loaded words like “stupid” or could even be interpreted as being unkind, you come across looking bad. Not only that, but you end up hating yourself for stooping so low. Deep regret is harder to live with than anger. Regret means you lost control.

Rebecca Finch, text
Rebecca Finch, The Afternoon Hour. Oil on linen, 8 x 10 inches. ©The Artist

Never respond in anger. When you discover someone or some thing that makes you angry or frustrated, pause. Take a deep breath or count to 10. Do whatever works to lower your blood pressure.

One of my favorite things to do when I want to lash out is to type up a response in a document file. I let everything out and can use any kind of language I want, but here’s the secret: I don’t send it. In fact, I don’t usually want to send it. I’ve expressed myself in words and that’s enough. Try it!

After you’ve unloaded your feelings onto paper or into your computer, step away from what you’ve written. Take a walk or work on something else. You need distance–the kind of distance that only time can provide. When you return, you’ll have a better perspective for how to respond or whether to respond at all.

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KNOW THIS———-~> Responding in anger only makes you look bad.

THINK ABOUT THIS—~> Has there been a time in the past when you wished you had just kept quiet?

DO THIS————~> When something you’ve read makes you angry or frustrated, take a deep breath. If you need to, write out your response, but never send it. Take the time to distance yourself from the situation so that you can look at it more objectively.


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12 thoughts on “Take a Deep Breath”

  1. So glad you wrote about this, it’s something my husband always tells me and it is very hard to do sometimes, but it always pays to be the better, more professional, person. 🙂 Thanks for another great article!

  2. Thanks Alyson for the advice. I believe I responded in anger in one of my blogs to someone’s comment about my artwork. I guess I realize it really isn’t professional and people have their own opinions about art. Thanks for the article. I think I’ll remove that particular blog. I’m long over it now.

  3. I live in a very very polite neighbourhood…I have watched as beautiful homes have been torn down to build slab high rise condo flip developments…Everyone has been very polite about it…Now they are going to tear down a famous Canadian architect’s studio…I have been empowered to write articles, letters & blog posts, by my outrage…My polite neighbours are shocked at my honesty…Politely, they appreciate it…Anger is not something I use too often…But it can be a powerful tool at the right moment & censoring my words might have dampened the effect…But, this is an exception to the rule, & I do agree with you wholeheartedly…

  4. i learned the hard way years ago not to respond in anger. i do the same as you…write out a letter that will never be sent just to get out my anger, thoughts and feelings. i just take it a step further and either rip it up or burn it as a way to release the negativity. it’s amazing how much better you feel afterward!!

  5. It is funny but artists have two conflicting jobs. One the one hand they are supposed to become as sensitive and feeling-oriented as possible. On the other they have to survive repeated rejection. Of course their are going to be bumps on such a road.

    The ability to sometimes bite one’s tongue is necessary. Pick your battles carefully. Good advice from Alyson.

  6. Eroica and Lisa: It never hurts to read and re-read solid business advice.

    Denise: Interesting. I wonder if it’s sometimes better to remove a comment than to respond to it in anger.

    Sari: Hmmm. This is a little different because the people you’re writing to can actually do something about the situation. I think it’s important to keep the tone civilized–regardless of your anger level. I think it’s 100% true that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

    Kathryn: Burning and tearing up are the piece de resistance!

    Philip: So true. I can recall more times than I care to admit that I wish I had bit my tongue.

  7. Great subject! It amazes me how brazen someone can get with comments, especially if done without their real ID…I saw some very rude, negative and hateful comments on a YouTube video. I was very angry seeing what people wrote, so decided to defend and mention how stupid the comments where….as I was writing my comment, I realized that they would know my YouTube ID and turn on me…so that scared me off…but once I had written my thoughts, but not published them, I realized how cathartic this was to at least write it down getting it out of my system…Reality is, that you can’t resolve the problem of hateful comments, but you can change the world by being a positive person.
    I have never received a negative comment on my artwork but have experienced a very hateful comment on one of my art blogs, I had the option to publish it, but didn’t…I knew the truth and that I was right, I didn’t have to respond to defend the truth, so didn’t….but wrote it out and got it out of my system, just like you expressed Alyson….great advice I adhear to.

  8. This is sound advice for any artist who must inevitably face the music of criticism and, unfortunately, one form of bigotry or another. Becoming heated and reacting as such impulsively is a sin I think a lot of us are guilty of, and we often pay for it later with regret and/or making the issue worse.

    Be calm, take the criticism (or ignore the ignorance), and respond once things are in the clear.

  9. Pingback: Stop apologizing for imperfections — Art Biz Blog

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