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How To Be Less Reactive in a Relationship

By Dr. Ori Shinar

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While it’s certainly easier said than done, holding ourselves emotionally accountable is crucial for our personal wellbeing and for maintaining healthy relationships. 

However, many of us tend to get defensive under pressure and overreact in ways that are neither healthy or productive. 
While we always encourage professional help if you need it, there are ways you can begin to address emotional reactivity on your own. Here is a guide on how to be less reactive in a relationship.

Signs You Might Be Emotionally Reactive

How to be less reactive

We all like to think we have our emotions under control, but our fight or flight response may very well get the best of our feelings when we’re in the moment. 

If you feel like this might be you, here are some signs to look for. It always helps to have some self awareness. 

You’re Easily Offended

You have a tendency to take things personally and your response may not always be reflective of the situation. In other words, you overreact emotionally because you feel like your feelings were hurt. 

Since you’re already feeling like you’ve been criticized or hurt, you might also respond in a defensive or resentful way.  And when it comes to conflict resolution, it’s always better to go in with a clear head. 

You Feel Helpless

How to be less reactive

Do you find yourself constantly asking, “Why is this happening to me”? If so, a sense of self-righteousness might be clouding your judgment. 

You believe that your intense emotional reaction was caused by your circumstances and not an inability to regulate your emotions. This mentality can make it more difficult to get a realistic grasp on the situation and hold yourself accountable. 

You Have A Short Temper 

You feel as if you can blow a fuse at any moment, and it’s hard for you to keep your calm. And often you can’t even pinpoint what exactly set you off. 

The Negative Effects of Emotional Reactivity 

couple arguing

Perhaps you’ve identified yourself in the previously mentioned traits, and you want to learn how to be less reactive. However, it’s important to also be aware of the state of your relationships. 

Here are some of the ways emotional reactivity affects your relationships. 

General Aggressiveness 

It’s easy to fall for the “eye for an eye” mentality and assume that we must wrong others if we feel wronged. However, that can lead to unnecessary aggression and hostility. 

While you might take solace here in your sense of justice, this just leads to more defensiveness and irrational thought patterns. 

Blurring Perceptions With Reality 

Emotional reactivity doesn’t always allow for a clear state of mind, and you can subsequently develop a blind spot when it comes to perceiving situations. 

In other words, if you feel someone was being rude to you, you might just assume that they simply are a rude person. This thought pattern just leads to blanket statements and assuming the worst. 

How to Be Less Reactive 

girl being less reactive

Here are some effective first steps you can take to begin changing your reactive behavior and regain control of your emotions:


First, take a step back and attempt to figure out what exactly sets you off. Do you find yourself more reactive during a certain time of day? Does certain dialogue make you particularly emotional?

It may take some effort, but pinpointing your triggers helps understand the “why” of your emotional reactivity and will subsequently help put a stop to it. 

Active Listening 

talking with others

Try slowing down and listening to what the other person is saying with an open mind. If you have something to say, make a mental note and wait until they’re finished talking, but try not to snap in the moment. 

Active listening helps you gain a better perspective on the situation, and the other person will also appreciate you making the effort to hear them out. 

Practice Emotional Regulation

Emotional regulation is a form of self care. It helps you to both stay cool in a moment of tension and later be able to let out those emotions in a healthy manner. 

For example, mindfulness and meditation are effective ways to regulate your emotions and clear your head. Keeping a journal and physically writing out your thoughts works well too. 

And of course, seeing a therapist is a fantastic form of self regulation. It goes without saying that therapy is a judgment-free zone, so you can process whatever you need to. Plus, you have a trained adult ready to help you facilitate any emotional breakthroughs. 

Overall, being less reactive helps to not only preserve your relationships, but your own emotional wellbeing. Therefore, it is better to start practicing these habits sooner rather than later. 

If you feel like you still need further help, it is available to you. You are capable of taking control of your emotions.

Schedule an appointment with dr ori

Are you ready to start living fully?

To learn more about individual therapy schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation and we’ll help determine if our services are a good fit for you.

Schedule an appointment with dr ori

Are you ready to start living fully?

To learn more about individual therapy schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation and we’ll help determine if our services are a good fit for you.

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