Millennials, Remember to H.A.L.T. Before Your Next Fight

You come home from a long, hard day at work.  Your significant other is at the door waiting to give you some “feedback” about something you forgot, or missed, or didn’t acknowledge.  You’re a ticking time bomb and after your long day, this is the last straw. As they start talking to you, you can feel your blood pressure start to rise.  You start to boil and then - you blow!

Sound familiar?  Perhaps it happens at work too.  It just takes one more push and your emotions get the best of you and you become the poster child for one of those Snicker commercials.  However, on the other side the person who has ‘pushed your buttons’ is actually confused about what you got so agitated about.  In many of these scenarios it has little to do with the topic they brought up.  Instead it was a physiological response on your end.

Whether you’re the agitated or the unknowning aggressor  try this simple  test if you start to feel the ‘heat’ in the room rise, but want to cool the room off before the next fight.


H stands for hungry.  Are you hungry?  Seriously, when you start to feel that either someone’s giving a very out-of-the-normal response to a simple request (What do you want to do tonight = blow up), or you feel yourself becoming agitated over something seemingly innocent, you might simply be hungry. We don’t make great decisions if one of our basic physiological needs is not met, and we can lash out unintentionally.  Hunger can greatly influence our emotional response. Snickers had it right, grab one and stave off the hunger monster.

A stands for angry.  Are you angry?  Did something happen at work that’s carrying over into the night?  Or perhaps it’s much deeper.  This is the anniversary of a lost loved one.  You found out some disturbing news about a friend and have been bottling it up.  Remember that the outward emotion of angry is really a mask covering up our primary emotion of hurt (emotionally) and/or fear.  Next time you start to see this response in someone else or you feel it coming on you – ask yourself if there is something deeper you’re dealing with consciously or subconsciously and give yourself some time alone to cool down.

L stands for lonely.  Are you feeling lonely?  This is about Maslow’s need level of lacking belonging and affection. Do you need a hug when you walk through the door, and the only thing you get is more notches and dings against you?  Maybe you are an extrovert that spent a lot of time alone today and so your energy level is on low ebb.  Or, you’re just in a funk wondering if your friends are really your friends or where your relationship is going.  If this is the case, ask the “feedbacker” if you can have a couple of minutes just together, “loving on one another,” to restore you faith in humanity.

Finally, T stands for tired.  After a long day that has used up a lot of your energy physically, mentally, and emotionally this indicator is about delays in achievement and success.  This can create some frustrating days. Days that just don’t come together and click, the to-do list wasn’t completed to your satisfaction, the project you worked on wasn’t a hit out of the park, or simply, you just need a nap.  Instead of resting, you snap out of frustration that things aren’t going your way.  Again, try to take a 5 minutes alone to close your eyes, focus on your breathing, shut down the engines and get yourself back to neutral – a reboot!

Obviously, as adults we can build skill and emotional intelligence around showing our true colors and masking our H.A.L.T. indicators, however true to form, when we’re maxed out we can lash out.  I remember as a child my mother would practice H.A.L.T. on me.  Was Matt hungry, angry (hurt, scared or sad), lonely or tired?  She would check in on me if I was ‘off’ and work some of the remedies mentioned.

So the next time your significant other (or friend, colleague, family member) comes in the door and they seem ‘off’ practice H.A.L.T. with them.  Are they hungry and need some food for renewed energy; are they Angry (hurt/fearful) and need someone to listen to them or they need time alone to process; are they Lonely and need a hug or to play a game together; or are they tired and either need a nap or permission to go to bed early?  The feedback can wait, especially if it saves you a night of fighting and strengthens your relationship together.