Your feelings are significant. Your opinion counts. Your ideas are valuable. Yet, all too often, if you give voice to these matters in the middle of a heated exchange, your input will be distorted or discarded.

Indeed, striking while the iron is hot may get you scalded. Though you may be dying to tell the agitated person how he messed up, how much he’s hurting you, what he should have done, or what he should do now, you, the wise person, will zip your lip - at least for the moment.

If you don’t, it is doubtful that you will be heard in the way you want to be heard. Instead, you can count on one of three things happening:

1. Counterattack (i.e. It's your fault; you should have told me about this.)
2. Defensiveness (i.e. I was only trying to help.)
3. Blowing you off (i.e. Shut up -You've no idea what you’re talking about.)

At the heat of the moment, it's natural to want to spew forth whatever is on your mind about the mistake, the blunder, the tragedy, the spat. My advice to you, however, is to curb that natural impulse. Wait until things have cooled off. If you can do that, striking while the iron is warm (perhaps a few minutes, an hour, a day or two later), you will exponentially increase your chances of being heard.

In the midst of emotional turmoil, one is generally not receptive to taking in logical things like good sense, sound judgment, valid feedback. At the most, one might be open to a bit of empathy (i.e. Boy, that was a tough choice you had to make!), a show of understanding (i.e. It must hurt like hell!), or a kind touch.

Though my advice is meant for adults, it's often easier to get my point when I illustrate it with a story about a child. So, picture a 4-year-old who is running down the steps and falls. Her chin is scraped, her knee is bleeding, she’s crying hysterically.

Sure, you could berate her for running, tell her to be more careful, or give her a lecture on what could have happened. But how much of this do you think she’s going to take in at the moment? Isn’t it best (even if you are scared, annoyed or inconvenienced by her mishap) to tend to her wound, tell her you know it hurts, give her a loving hug and save all the rest for later?

By later I mean a reasonable period of time. If you strike while the iron is cold – “Remember, you hurt yourself last month when you were running”, you’re going to be perceived as, “there he goes again – always negative, always picking on me.”

If you believe your observations are important and you want to be heard, be aware of how and when you respond. Lecturing someone when they are already hurt (or angry), tends to provoke frustration and resentment for both parties.

Copyright 2008
Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. For more information about her work, contact her at or visit her website at

Author's Bio: 

Linda Sapadin, Ph.D., psychologist, author, and motivational speaker, is known for her sharp insights and exceptional ability to provide timely yet timeless advice. Her specialty is helping people build competence, overcome procrastination, master fear and vanquish self-defeating patterns of emotions and behavior.

Dr. Sapadin has had extensive media experience, appearing on the Today Show, National Public Radio, Voice of America and a host of other TV and radio programs. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, Newsday, The Washington Post, Prevention, Redbook, Men’s Health, and many other publications.

Dr. Sapadin has been an invited speaker to the Smithsonian, the American Psychological Association, and many other business and educational organizations. She is the author of PsychWisdom, a weekly advice column published online. To subscribe, visit

Books Published by Dr. Sapadin

-Now I Get It!: Totally Sensational Advice for Living and Loving is a collection of 62 of her inspiring, empowering and entertaining columns. (Outskirts Press, 2007, also published in Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia)

-Master Your Fears: How to Triumph Over Your Worries and Get On With Your Life© (John Wiley, 2004, also published in Korean)

-It’s About Time! The 6 Styles of Procrastination and How to Overcome Them© (Viking/Penguin, 1996, also published in Japanese) with Jack Maguire

-Beat Procrastination and Make the Grade: The 6 Styles of Procrastination and How Students Can Overcome Them© (Penguin, 1999) with Jack Maguire