Intensity and Relationships: Why People Get So BIG in Times of Upset
February 24, 2011 · Posted in Anger, Communication, Marriage · Permalink

Lisa Merlo Booth

Time and again I find myself working with clients on their intensity.  Countless men rage, bully or intimidate when things don’t go their way.  Many women yell, scream and threaten when they don’t get what they want.  Bosses are going off on their employees and parents are going off on their children.  The intensity can be off the charts.

Our athletes, politicians, parents, teachers, leaders and followers are all getting BIG when things don’t go their way.  Almost everywhere I turn, I see someone bullying, intimidating, threatening or raging in times of disagreement or upset.  Countless marriages are being impacted—and destroyed–by this intensity.  Numerous businesses are losing employees due to intense bosses and co-workers.  And too many friendships are breaking because of words said in the heat of the moment.

So why are so many people reacting to things with such intensity?  There are a number of reasons people get so intense, including: it feels good, yelling takes no discipline or thought, it’s a learned behavior from childhood (and our culture) and — the main reason people react by getting “BIG” — is because IT WORKS.

The bottom line is when people rage, yell, bully and/or threaten, it gets people off their backs.  People grow quiet in response to intensity.  They do what they need to in order to get the intensity to stop.  If, every time you bully, others shut up and do what you want, then why not bully?  It works, right?  Wrong.  The truth is, getting BIG often leads to short-term gains and long-term losses.  People do quiet when threatened…and they also stew, get resentful and begin to pull away.  This is true at work, at home and in friendships.  Nobody likes to be bullied; it’s just not fun.  And, while you may like the way it gets you what you want in this moment, you had better be prepared for the backlash.

The reality is that bullying almost always comes with a price.  You may not pay that price today, but almost certainly you will pay for it in one of the tomorrows.  I’ve seen the meekest of wives leave raging men and the meekest of men leave raging women.  I’ve seen complacent employees reach their limit and leave well-paying jobs.  And, I’ve seen lifetime friendships end when the intense friend didn’t settle down over the years.   Intensity may work in the short run; however, the cost in the long run is often more than people want to bear.

If you find yourself often yelling, intimidating, snapping at others, etc., then know the timer is ticking.  The more you act BIG, the faster that timer ticks.  The only way to slow down the timer leading to the end of relationships is to slow your intensity down.  Seek help for your reactivity before it truly wreaks havoc in your life—if it hasn’t already.

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