Managing Behaviors 101

Learning to manage our behaviors begins to happen when we are very young from the feedback we get from our caregivers, families, teachers and friends.  Because our behavior is visible and out in the open, we get a lot of reactions from the people around us about how they feel about or interpret our behavior.

When we are young, we tend to behave more impulsively, or without thinking first.  Over time, we learn to think more before we act. Eventually, our behavior becomes more consistent based on our experiences. We learn what works to get us what we want or keep us out of trouble and we start to follow patterns that get us these results in similar situations (we also get better at figuring out what types of situations are similar to each other).

As we get older and are able to think more about our behavior we tend to realize that different settings often require different types of behavior.  When you are with your friends you might behave more casually – make weird faces, use slang or abbreviations and joke around with one another.  When you are with a group of adults or talking to a teacher, it’s unlikely that you would behave the same way. We can think about managing behavior the same way we think about running a race:

  • When you run a race you might take time to prepare before you get to the starting line. This could involve stretching, loosening up and thinking about your race strategy. Hopefully you’ve also been training in preparation for this race.
  • Then you step to the starting line, make any last minute adjustments and look around to see who your competitors are.
  • When the race gun fires you go! As you run, you might notice things along the way that make you adjust your course or strategy (e.g. a strong wind or a competitor you want to get ahead of).
  • Finally, after the race you cool down and think about your performance and the things you might try to change the next time you compete. Your coach or teammates might suggest what might have worked better too.

The steps below can be used to help us think about everyday situations and general behavior:

  • Think ahead about the setting you are going to be in, who are you going to talk to and what you are  about to do or say. What is expected of you?  (We call this “planning”).
  • Maybe the setting is different than you imagined and it makes sense to reevaluate how you will handle the situation.
  • Maybe you notice that the people around you are not responding positively to your behavior so you decide to back off a bit or take a different approach to what you are trying to do.
  • Think about the interaction you just had and how did it go.  Did you come on too strong? Did others seem comfortable around you? Would you do anything different the next time? Has anyone provided you with any feedback about how you handled things?

As you might imagine, managing your behavior has a big impact on your adult/professional/college life.  As you grow up and enter new environments, people who don’t know you so well, and even those who do, will rely on your behavior to develop an understanding of who you are. And you will hopefully plan, act, and think about how things went and what you might do differently or fix the next time a similar situation arises.

Get Help Now

If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text HOME to 741-741 or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, text or call 988.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.