My mother is a very aggressive woman. I love her and she’s a great mom, but when she doesn’t get her way, she screams and shouts until she does. She’s abrasive and sometimes intimidates waiters or service people. The other day my boyfriend and I had a fight, and I believe that I behaved the same way my mother would have. How do I help myself from falling into the same patterns I grew up with?

It can be difficult to shake off a habit or behavior you’ve been familiar with your whole life. On the bright side, you recognize this harmful behavior and have resolved to discontinue it. You understand that rudeness is not genetic and you are your own person who is not destined to embrace the same disposition as your mother. As you try to embrace positive methods of communication, try to also anticipate negative attitudes and behavior through recognizing warning signs. Maybe you notice that your mother gets stressed when she’s warm or in a loud place and you adopt similar irritation in those situations. Maybe you and your mother have different triggers, yet handle your anger the same. Try taking note of, and possibly writing down what causes your stress and see if you can identify a pattern.

If you’re in an angry state, be conscious of your tendency to be hot-headed. Try to put yourself in a more relaxed mood, whichever way is easiest, whether it is taking deep breaths, going outside for a moment or removing yourself from the situation entirely. Articulate to yourself and to people involved why you are upset and have a plan of action if the situation escalates. It may take a while to develop a coping strategy that’s effective. With every interaction, try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and ask yourself, “Is this how I would like to be spoken to?” and “Am I giving this person enough respect and consideration despite the fact that I’m annoyed?” Don’t judge or blame yourself if your anger is unmanageable the first few times. Something this hard to shake off may require counseling or additional resources, but identifying the problem is the first step toward recovery. Good luck.