How To Stop Yourself From Saying Something You'll Regret

Deep breaths.

man signaling for you to stop talking before you say something you'll regret pathdoc / Shutterstock

One of the hardest things to do is to know how to calm down, especially when angry. When anger issues begin to bubble up, the risk that you will say or do something you later regret rises.

If you let your anger continue to escalate, the damage potential, both to you and others, zooms higher. Once you have calmed down, you will be more able to act constructively to remedy the situation. The goal then becomes getting what you want without harming others.


Using the eight essential techniques explained below, you can start dealing with your anger before it gets the best of you.

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When used together, they can help you relax so your concerns can be addressed via cooperative talking instead of unleashing your anger.

How to avoid saying something you'll regret before it's too late

1. Remove yourself from a situation you can’t handle.

I repeat, remove yourself from a situation you can’t handle! Memorize this mantra, and use it immediately whenever you feel frustration, irritation, or anger rising. Gracefully leave the room, or at least gracefully change the topic.




2. Exit earlier than you think you need to.

When your anger is at a level 3 on a scale of 10, exits become increasingly difficult by the time you’re up over level 4. Self-righteous indignation by then will propel you to keep trying to prove your point.

Anger will make getting what you want to seem all-important; as a friend once said, “My anger makes what I want to feel holy, and what you want totally insignificant.”

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3. Distract yourself and change your focus.

Phew. You’ve separated yourself from that situation you couldn’t handle. Now what?

Focus on something other than what you were mad about. Avoid totally any further thoughts about the person you have found provocative. Instead, find a pleasant distraction. Stay clear of any thoughts about the anger-evoking situation (e.g., “He shouldn’t have...”)

Read a magazine. Check your social media. Any distraction helps. Keep a joke book handy; chuckling deletes anger. Positive thoughts trump anger, including thoughts that bring forth feelings of gratitude or affection. Close your eyes and picture yourself on a beach. Envisioning positive images can be even more calming than thoughts.

4. Breathe deeply, then relax your muscles.

Clear the air emotionally by clearing the physical air in your lungs. The same slow deep breathing that helps give birth to babies and release constipated bowels can bring cooling energy to you when you’re trying to calm down your inner fire.


Focus especially on relaxing the little muscles around your mouth, eyes, arms, and hands. Taking a walk can also be helpful with this.

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5. Smile.

Think about something that brings forth a natural smile, or tell yourself to smile in spite of how you feel. Smiles soothe, even when they do not come naturally.

6. Test the waters.

Before you return to the difficult situation, prepare yourself to re-enter by picturing yourself offering gestures of niceness.

Plan to talk about pleasant topics before resuming the tough ones. Be sure that you and whomever you were talking with are securely back in the happy zone before venturing again into sensitive realms.


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7. Find something you can agree with.

Re-launch the tough topic by agreeing first with all you can find to agree with about the points the other person has made. Look especially to understand and verbalize what you heard with regard to the other person’s concerns.

8. Share your concerns and find a solution.

This final tip has a number of subtleties to keep in mind:

  • Be sure to keep yourself calm, relaxed, and collaborative.
  • Keep your ears open to hearing others’ concerns in the best possible light.
  • Avoid insisting on particular solutions.
  • Again, stay aware of your tone. Keep it friendly–or else take another quick exit. Any slippage into adversarial tones can undo all of the above.

Use even just the first of these techniques. You will be on the road to anger control if you at least remove yourself from provocative situations. Use them all, and you will enter the realm of emotional maturity.

Young children get angry often. Adults — that is, people who function emotionally like adults — control their anger instead of using anger to control others. So next time you begin to feel mad, recognize it right away so you can control your anger.

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Susan Heitler, Ph.D., is a Harvard-educated clinical psychologist, marriage counselor, and author. She has published several books and has been featured in Psychology Today, WebMD, TIME, and more.