How to Effectively Communicate with Reactive People

Many of the reactive people you will encounter are in emotional pain and lack communication skills. While a few people enjoy raging because they like it, most people are stuck in their suffering.

People who react, either are combative or avoid. Yes, you can be reactive internally and not show it outwardly. The most common reaction is through passive aggressiveness and the silent treatment. Whether you rage outward or inward, the body reacts with the same physiology. When your thoughts trigger the brain, your heart pumps, blood pressure rises and vision sharpens.

As a society, we are chronically stressed. Many of us are at a simmer level, waiting to boil over. It doesn’t take much to reach this tipping point. You could react to someone in traffic, a social media post or even yourself for making a humanly mistake. This way of functioning, long term, causes physical health issues such as anxiety, depression, memory loss and sleep disturbances. Our bodies are not meant to be stuck in high idle.

The biggest challenge for empathic helpers, is to recognize another’s negative mood or energy and not absorb it into their bodily system. You want to stay engaged, without becoming angry or shutting down. The first step is staying centered within your energy.

How to stay grounded no matter what life throws at you

Practice resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back in the face of adversity and grow from it. When you are in the present moment, you can easily adapt to changing circumstances and take purposeful action. Rather than look at a reactive person in a judgmental way, look at this interaction as a way to grow and learn new communication skills.

Fill Your Cup. Do something you love every day to cultivate well-being. Practice the concept of flow, becoming completely absorbed in a pleasurable activity. For me, I enter a flow state while writing, hours can go by in the blink of an eye.

Learn about Your Strengths. Notice when you use your strengths and how it feels to use them. You can take a free VIASignature Strength Test and learn your top strengths. Self-awareness is the best tool in communication.

Self-Compassion. Recognize your own suffering and lessen it. Become mindful of when you feel judgmental or critical of yourself and others. Practice loving kindness and forgiveness.

Work Your Body. Practice deep breathing and muscle relaxation techniques. Ground your energy by visualizing tree roots coming from the bottom of your feet and anchoring deep into Mother Earth. Better yet, place your bare feet into the ground or sand, feel them connect with the earth.

Once you have your feet firmly planted on the ground, through the above practices, continue onto the next steps.

How to not get pulled into other’s reactions

Be a witness. Learn to observe what is happening without taking it personally. This is very easy to understand, yet challenging to do. If you are having difficulty, revisit the above steps or contact a licensed psychotherapist. Subconsciously, you may be getting triggered from a repressed memory.

Be engaged. Listen with empathy. You are not here to give solutions or suggestions, but rather to understand where the other person is coming from. Suspend judgment and the belief that your way is the right way. Many people who react, want to be heard and understood.

Be a curious detective. Ask questions to get to the bigger picture. Figure out what is really going on. Beneath the outrage, there is a content or story. When you get to the meat of the conversation, you know what is at stake. This is where change can happen.

Lisa Hutchison LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist and writing coach who helps sensitive souls not just survive but shine. She is the Amazon bestselling author of I Fill My Cup: A Journal for Compassionate Helpers and the kindle book Setting Ethical Limits for Caring & Competent Professionals. Get a FREE 10 page E-book; 8 Simple Things That Release Chaos from Your Life Now at