The acronym H.A.L.T. isn’t just for school settings. It helps all of us practice empathy when encountering difficult behaviors.
When I was teaching art in an Oakland inner city school, educational posters plastered the walls. Several of them talked about feelings. One had facial expressions and the matching emotions, with everything from “happy” to “annoyed.” This was clearly to help children talk about their emotions and recognize the emotions of others.
Another poster focused on four simple questions:
While this poster may have helped some children understand their feelings and behaviors, I think they were really there as a reminder to faculty and staff.
These things impact how we behave. They wear our resolve to be better, and sometimes, we do things we’re not proud of as a result.
Our Worst Moments
I’m at my worst when I’m tired. Hands down. If I don’t get enough sleep, I am just as likely to throw a tantrum as my preschooler. I own that. It’s a tendency I have. I’ve always been that way, the difference now is that knowing it – I can address it.
My husband can manage tired. Hunger, however, has a wearing effect. He gets incapable of making decisions and gets progressively more snappy the longer the situation goes on.
Lucky for us, our preschooler doesn’t do well with either, but he’s a preschooler, so there’s still hope.
It took us a while to know these things about ourselves, but once we did it made it easier to address the problems and forgive our difficult behavior. But that isn’t to say we aren’t all affected by all four of those states – we are. Everyone is. And even recognizing how we are affected doesn’t prevent us from encountering situations that create these states.
This past week was full of H.A.L.T. moments for us. We had jet lag from vacation. We had to replace our mattress quite suddenly (which resulted in less than ideal sleeping situations for several nights). We all got the flu. The doctor’s office forgot to complete some paperwork which created some additional errands and stress for us. We had to stand-in as parents for other people in unexpected ways that multiplied our H.A.L.T. moments. All in a heat wave. Staying in a house without fans or AC.
We have NOT been our best selves this past week. That said, knowing H.A.L.T. and being able to recognize how these situations are impacting our lives helps. It helps because we’ve been able to be more gentle with each other, despite the additional stresses. I’ve been more forgiving to myself, my husband, and my son. I’ve been more accepting of my immediate reactions, and acknowledged them. Once I acknowledged them, it was easier to let them go and address the underlying cause.
To Do With Love
It’s important to know how these things impact people. Every person is impacted by these four states to some degree. Everyone has tendencies around these states – the states that are more difficult to manage. It’s important to remember this when someone is “behaving badly.”
When someone we encounter lashes out, we can take a moment, a breath to think through why they’re doing what they’re doing and ask those questions:
Is this person…
The answer will help us understand their behavior choices and make them a little easier to bear. It’s a simple practice of understanding, but it does wonders for how we feel about the situation, our responses (which can foster more positive outcomes!), as well as resolving the root issue.
This week, if you notice yourself making choices you’re not proud of, take a minute and ask yourself those questions.
If you encounter someone who is not being their best self – whether they’re behind the register at the store or if they’re sitting across from you at the dinner table – ask those questions. You may ask them aloud or in your head. The answers may be obvious, or you may have to consider them for a moment.
Whatever the case, it’s important to ask these questions because they will help you understand yourself and others better. It will help you respond in love to both yourself and others.
Have you used H.A.L.T.? Leave a comment below!
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