Is not easy. It is our natural human tendency to react to other people’s moods as we have an inherent predisposition to internalize. This puts us into a reactive position, which in turn can affect our own mood, becoming surly ourselves. We are much better served to be in a proactive position; let’s set up the scene:
- House hold member comes in the door acting like a bear with a sore paw; our keenness for non-verbals tells us this before they even say a word.
- Is it our responsibility to say something? Absolutely. Caring as to why your loved one is upset is an emotional bid that allows them to feel held. Once they have settled in, asking “Is everything okay, you seem quiet” is a good way to test the waters.
- They will most likely say that everything is fine. Part of that is their surliness and desire to withdraw; part of it might also be their inherent need to protect you from their bad mood (albeit, it doesn’t work.)
- Give it a bit of time and ask again. Yup, I always recommend we ask twice as it opens a door to communication.
- If they respond by telling you what affected them in their day, great! Just listen; they may not need advice but rather just a sounding board.
- If they say that everything is fine (even though it clearly isn’t), then take them at their word and from here on in, act as though they are in a good mood. This may take some practice, as our tendency becomes to feel irritated and withdraw ourselves, but acting as though everything is fine is the proactive piece as it sends the message “Your mood is not going to affect mine.”
It may not change our loved one’s propensity to act surly at times but it can help us to regulate our own mood; giving us a greater sense of control and autonomy.