This week, we’re back to our Conflicts series and exploring a really useful tool: the acronym HALT, which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. So often when we find ourselves in conflict, there are underlying contextual issues that intensify the situation. When we can get curious about what’s going on for ourselves and the people around us, we can find ways to address the discomfort so that it’s easier to be creative and find solutions to the real problems underneath.
We hope today’s episode sparks some fun insights for you and we invite you to dive deeper with our Episode Questions. Join us on Instagram or YouTube to continue the conversation and share your reflections.
Let’s dig deep, challenge paradigms, choose connection, and live joyfully!
1. Over the next week or two, just take some time to notice what your body feels at random times. Are you feeling hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? Each of these can feel different for different people—what do they feel like for you? Consider how they feel both physically and emotionally.
2. Think about a recent conflict. Might any of the HALT factors been at play? For you? For them?
3. Think about a way to remind yourself to consider HALT when you’re sensing an edge to yourself or to someone around you. Maybe a reminder on your phone wallpaper? Or a note on the fridge? Or a representative object you keep in your pocket? Something that helps you keep the idea top of mind until it becomes a habit to check in to see if anyone’s hungry, angry, lonely or tired.
PAM: Hello and welcome to the Living Joyfully Podcast! We are so happy you’re here exploring relationships with us, who we are in them, out of them, and what that means for how we move through the world.
So, if you’re new to the podcast, we do encourage you to go back and listen to the earlier episodes, particularly the first 14. We started with some foundational relationship ideas and have really enjoyed how they’ve been building on one another, so it would be great to get that foundation. And if you’ve already been enjoying the podcast, we’d love it if you could leave a rating and review wherever you listen, because that definitely helps new people find us.
Today’s episode is part of our Conflict series. And actually, starting with this episode, we’re embarking on a four-episode mini-series, a series within a series, diving into different aspects of self-awareness, which is so valuable for helping us navigate conflict with more grace, compassion, and effectiveness. “And how?” you ask? Well, when there’s conflict, it really helps to be able to communicate to the other person what we’re upset about, why, and what we feel from our perspective might help resolve the conflict. So, those underlying needs. And to do that, we need to have a pretty good handle on what’s going on for us. So, that’s what we’re exploring with this series. We need to understand ourselves well enough to recognize and identify the feelings that are being sparked by the conflict.
Maybe it’s anger, frustration, disappointment, embarrassment, fear, and so on. There are so many different emotions that can be sparked. And then to dig into why those particular feelings are provoked by this particular situation. So, making connections about understanding ourselves better.
Also to notice any solutions we might be feeling attached to before we hear what the other person wants to share. If we jump to our solution ahead of time, that can also make the conflict more challenging to navigate. And also to recognize and acknowledge the story that we’re telling ourselves about the other person. So, if we aren’t able to do this kind of internal processing, we aren’t likely to have enough information about our thoughts and feelings to navigate the conflict more productively, by which I mean with enough depth to actually learn more about each other and find a path forward that we’re both comfortable with. So, yes, I am looking forward to this series very much.
To start us off with this first week, we want to look at the immediate circumstances that surround a conflict. And to do that, I know we’ve both found HALT to be a really useful tool to help bring more awareness into play. And HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, and reminds us to take a moment to tune into our bodies. It is surprising how often one or more of these are at play exacerbating a conflict, which means it’s also valuable to consider HALT from the other person’s perspective.
So, let’s start with H for hungry. When we’re hungry, we’re often not able to think as clearly as usual, right? We feel irritable. We tend to snap at people, and we often aren’t able to give space for listening or for being creative and coming up with solutions. We just want this conflict to be over already and even better if it goes our way. So, thankfully this one is relatively easy to take care of once we notice it’s at play. We can share what’s up. We can grab a quick snack. Maybe we say something like, “Let’s continue our conversation in the kitchen. I’m feeling hungry and need some food so I can give you my full attention.” Or a glass of water or a cup of tea.
It’s a quick acknowledgement of what you’re feeling and how you want to address it. And interestingly, as we mentioned, playing with these things, I’ve noticed that continuing our conversation while I’m prepping food or grabbing a drink sometimes helps bring the confrontational energy down a bit.
Because we’re not literally face-to-face anymore. There’s just more space for us to use and take up.
ANNA: Yes. This is definitely something I have to watch out for. I can move from everything’s fine to hangry really fast. And while it’s so important to tune in to what’s happening in our bodies, like you’re talking about, it is helpful to keep HALT in mind for the people around us, too. If I feel things starting to get a little bit of an edge or something, just that off energy, a quick check-in about where are we in the day, is dinner running late? Did this person skip lunch? Is it mid-morning and we haven’t had breakfast? Just checking in to see if hunger could be a factor in the edge that I’m hearing.
And sometimes it’s fine to point that out, right? And sometimes it won’t help at all. So, definitely know your audience and know how far down I am on the hungry/hangry scale before you tell me that I need to eat. But if I think it’s a factor, I will just move myself and the discussion to the kitchen, like you’re talking about, grabbing a snack for myself, offering a snack to them. I might bring snacks to my partner or child wherever they happen to be, if they don’t move with me but I’m still sensing this kind of energy that’s escalating, especially if we’re talking about siblings.
It was just such a common theme with our girls when they were young that I told David he was going to need to tattoo, “FEED AT THREE” on his arm to remember that that preemptive snack made all the difference in how the rest of the day played out. He already knew to make sure that I was eating at regular intervals, but it was just this reminder that yes, something that seems like this huge conflict just completely dissolves when we have a snack and just hang out and start eating something.
PAM: Yeah. I love that and just a fun joke that also helps it stick. That can be referred back to. But noticing those kinds of patterns is so very valuable in understanding not only each other, but the context and how I can go from everything’s fine to horribly hangry so fast, to be able to see that the context matters. It’s not just about the thing that you’re in conflict about, right? Context really, really matters.
So, speaking of that, next up is A, which reminds us to check in with ourselves to notice if we’re feeling angry. So, when we’re angry about something, that also tends to seep into our interactions with others, even if they’re completely unrelated. And that makes sense, doesn’t it?
If, say, we had a conflict at work that day, we may well be preoccupied, playing it over and over in our heads, even after we get home. And that keeps us steeped in those emotions. Anger simmering just below the surface and ready to lash out at the slightest provocation.
And that said, sometimes I don’t actually realize that I’m feeling angry. And at those times, what I notice first is often that I just have a short fuse. And that’s my clue to take a moment to dig in. To go through HALT and see what resonates. And that’s when I may realize I’m angry about something.
Maybe someone made a comment to me earlier in the day and I thought I’d just brushed it off. It rolled off my back, but I find that it’s still simmering there in the background. So, once I’m aware of it, I find it’s just a bit easier to now hold it apart from my current interactions so that they don’t escalate, or at least I can let my family know that my frustration or my sharp words aren’t about them. They’re about what’s going on with me and something that I am processing.
But now what I can do is intentionally process that anger and process that situation, moving through it in ways that work for me rather than having it just stewing away in the background.
ANNA: And being more intentional about how you’re interacting with the people around you that may have absolutely nothing to do with what’s sparking that anger. And so often anger is the presenting emotion, but there’s so much more behind it. And recognizing and sharing as much as we can with the people around us just helps them to understand and support us. So, I love that piece.
And here again, if I’m sensing an edge in a person I’m with and hunger doesn’t make sense, I want to understand if something else is going on with them. And I might ask, “Hey, how was work or school today?” Or maybe I knew they had a call earlier and ask about that, or ask about a project I know they were working on that was causing some frustration. So often, people just need to feel heard and validated, and then they’re actually able to move through whatever those stuck feelings are that, like you said, maybe they don’t even recognize in that moment that’s creating this sharp edge in their tone or whatever is going on.
And so, my job is to not take it personally, to be curious and interested, to be the safe place so those feelings can be addressed and not fester when they can then come out in these ways that are more hurtful and sharp. And even if that ship has sailed and somebody snaps, I can recognize that that’s about them and not me and choose to lean in and be kind like we talked about last time.
PAM: Exactly, exactly. Making that choice to be kind in the moment and not taking it personally. It makes all the difference, it really does, in moving through that.
So, next we’ve got L. And feeling lonely can stem from feeling disconnected from the people around us, particularly family, because at first it’s like, how can I be lonely? I’ve got all these people around me. We’re stuck in this house. But when that happens, I can get cranky, sniping at my loved ones, and paradoxically pushing them even further away. So, I’m creating more miscommunication and more disconnection. So, noticing my crankiness. So, we’re back to that self-awareness, right? Something’s got to trigger me to like, oh, what’s going on? Then I can pull out HALT and hopefully soon realize that I’m actually feeling lonely. No, I am not hungry. I ate half an hour ago. And no, I don’t feel angry or mad at anything in particular. Ah, let’s check in with loneliness. So, now that I’m aware of that underlying feeling, I can be more considerate of myself.
And for me, that means instead of staying on that surface level and pushing people away with my cranky words and actions, I can make choices from that deeper level of awareness that I’m feeling lonely right now. So, I can more intentionally reach out to others to connect. I can invite a partner or a child to join me in an activity that we enjoy together. I can focus on cultivating laughter, connection, and joy to fill up my cup. And if that feels too hard right now, if we’re not able to muster that energy to think of something and go out and invite someone, we can absolutely join them in whatever they’re up to. Because right now, my connection with them is the priority, not the activity itself.
So, you know what? If they’re doing something that they’re choosing to do and they’re having fun with it, I can join them and just quietly soak in that joy, connect with them through their joy in what they’re doing. Even if the activity isn’t something that I super love or would choose to do on my own, that’s not the point. I’m not looking for an activity. I’m looking for connection. I’m feeling a bit lonely and disconnected, so I can join them in whatever they’re doing and enjoying and use that to connect with them again. To get some joy just by steeping in the joy that they’re having.
ANNA: I love that. When we see this crankiness in a person that we love, we can think about our connection and at least just bring it to mind. Have we had time together recently? Are they feeling connected to us? We normally are and just sometimes we notice the day has slipped away from us, or we haven’t had our normal check-in or it’s been a busy few days even. And so, all of that happens. And in a few weeks, we’ll be talking about bids for connection. And sometimes those bids are positive attempts at engagement, but sometimes it’s just not as clear. So, checking in and noticing if we’ve been prioritizing our connection. It can be, has our child gotten time with their friends? It may not be with us directly, but just being aware that this could be at play with a foul mood is so helpful, because sometimes we or the person doesn’t even realize that’s at play and a bit of connection to fill their cup just totally turns things around.
But this is one of those, like you were talking about with anger, I think sometimes we don’t notice it. Because, like you said, we’re around people and we’ve got people at home and maybe we even were at school or we were with a bunch of people. But depending on our personalities and how we fill our cups of connection, we really may not have had that quality time or deeper conversations or one-on-one that maybe we were looking for. And so, it really helps to keep those things in mind for ourselves and for those people that we love around us. And again, it’s so much about not taking it personally, so that we can be the support we want to be for the people in our lives.
PAM: Yes. Yes. And we keep mentioning that in multiple episodes because it is key not taking things personally because people’s behavior is about them. It’s giving us messages and clues about them, and conversely, our behavior is about us. So, even if we try to blame it on others, at first, like, “You’re making me angry,” it really is about our reaction to whatever is going on.
So, lastly, T. When we’re tired, I think it can be similar to being hungry, at least for me. It’s hard to think clearly. We may feel frustrated and snippy. It’s hard to listen to and empathize with others, but here the solution is just different. Rest rather than food. So, sometimes we end up tired and irritable pretty quickly, having ignored, pushed through, or not even noticed earlier signals that our body was trying to send us. So, letting others know you’re feeling tired and cranky is important. It’s valuable. And again, helping them understand why you may be behaving a bit out of character.
Communication, information, that it’s about you and your tired state. It is not about them, and that can help stop conflicts from bubbling up that serve no purpose other than damaging the connection and the relationship. And even better, I found, this was my experience when I started playing with it, when the other person knows what’s up, they may well help you settle in for a nap or into bed for the night. When loved ones learn your frustration or your saltiness isn’t a judgment of them personally, but has an unrelated reason, you’re tired, they can quickly become understanding and helpful.
So, we say we’re tired, but we’re pushing through to get one more chore done before we drop for the night. And maybe, maybe just one more, but when someone else says, “Hey, that can wait till tomorrow. You’re so tired. Why don’t you just go to bed?” That can help knock us out of the tunnel vision of, I must do this, that I’ve gotten stuck in, and remind me to take better care of myself. And I have found myself at times like, “Oh, I can’t let anyone know that I’m tired, because they’ll tell me to stop.”
ANNA: You’re trying to trick them, but it’s not working.
PAM: I know, I know. That trick just doesn’t work. But I think our society undervalues rest in service to productivity so much and that is the tunnel vision that I get stuck in and it’s easier to get stuck when I’m tired and when I’m off.
ANNA: I do think this is one that can sneak up on us. It’s so common to push through being tired. There’s just this expectation of it almost. And we may not even realize how much it impacts us, but it often does. Checking in with someone about how they slept. Do we need a break, a nap? Or just some quiet rest time can help. The 20-minute power nap can be a nice reset. And if rest isn’t possible in the moment, just saying, “Hey, let’s talk about this tomorrow. Let’s put this thing aside,” just helps us move from that kind of tired, grumpy, that can then go into a full on conflict if we push through those early signs. Remember that there’s plenty of time and not pushing a sense of urgency when we can see someone is not feeling their best. That just leaves space for us to come back fresh and in a more creative mindset, which will make moving through a disagreement so much easier.
So, again, because we’re talking so much about this context, we don’t want to take something that’s so contextual, like being tired or hungry and then making that define a relationship, because we’re now having fights about something when really it’s this contextual issue. So, it just makes it so much easier to do these little check-ins.
PAM: Yeah, absolutely. And I think once we start looking at this, it can be surprising to discover how often conflict erupts or gets so much worse just because one of us is out of sorts if we’re hungry, angry, lonely, tired. We don’t have our usual well of patience, our ability to listen attentively or even the capacity to think creatively, either one of us when we are in that state. When we can recognize that our reactions or their reactions seem out of proportion, that can be just a nice clue that we can check in with HALT and focus on addressing any of those underlying needs rather than getting defensive and focusing on that surface conflict.
It is so easy to just feel defensive and like, nope. And you stay stuck there. It’s like we talked about in the last episode, getting to those underlying needs. I’ve found so fascinating too, is that there is a good chance that once we’ve met that underlying need, the original conflict actually just kind of melts away right, back to being kind, not right.
When we’re being kind and we’re looking at these underlying needs, oh my gosh, the right/wrong thing just even melts away in the first place. It’s not something you need to go back to.
ANNA: Right. Oh my goodness. Yeah. HALT has resolved so many conflicts for me over the years, and there’s just such value in bringing myself back into my body so that I am finding the root cause instead of blaming the person in front of me or thinking that there’s something wrong with the relationship as a whole.
And like you said, we often find that once we address whatever the HALT issue is, it just melts away. Like it just suddenly, whatever the edge was about that particular issue, we’re able to be creative again. We’re able to find a solution. We’re able to look at those needs. We are so influenced by what’s happening in our body and then these other contextual issues. I just want to always look there first before going too far down and back and forth about something that just might fade away if we had some more food and a little bit of sleep and giving some grace to those around us. It’s a kindness to them and also to ourselves. It’s one more way we learn about one another and learn to navigate life together.
So much of this happens by slowing things down, giving space to look around and tune in before engaging into a conflict. We can address the contextual issues and if the original problem’s still there, okay, we can approach it then with curiosity, asking questions, expressing our feelings and needs, but it’s going to be a lot more intentional and less charged if we work through those contextual bits first.
PAM: Exactly. Yeah. That’s why we wanted to start with this one because yeah, it is in the moment. How are we in this moment? So, as you contemplate HALT as a tool for increasing self-awareness, particularly when it comes to navigating conflict, like self-awareness is good, but it is extra helpful when we’re navigating conflict, here are some questions that might be helpful for you to consider.
So, number one, over the next week or two, just take some time to notice what your body feels at random times. Are you feeling hungry, angry, lonely, tired? Get used to just asking yourself those questions, whether or not there’s conflict going around, because each of these can feel different for different people. So, discover what they feel like for you. It’ll be easier over time for you to more quickly identify that. And consider how they feel both physically and emotionally. Because there can be physical aspects as well.
Question two, think about a recent conflict. Might any of the HALT factors been at play? Think about it for yourself and think about it for the other person.
Number three, think about a way to remind yourself to consider HALT when you’re sensing an edge to yourself or to someone around you or between other people. I have done all of these over the years, so maybe a reminder on your phone wallpaper, so that you just see that when you turn on your phone and it’s like, oh yeah, HALT. What about that? Or maybe it’s a note on the fridge. Just the word HALT. Doesn’t need to be a big message. Or a representative object that you keep in your pocket. Just something that helps you keep the idea top of mind until it becomes a habit to check in, to see if you or anyone else are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.
Thank you so much for listening and we will see you next time. Bye!