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How to Let Go of a Grudge

By Dr. Travis Bradberry

Think about the last time someone really did you wrong. Maybe a family member forgot your birthday, or your boss passed you up for a promotion. Now, take a moment to notice what you’re feeling. Does thinking about the event make your heart beat faster or your breathing become shallow? Does it leave a bad taste in your mouth? If so, you’re holding a grudge, which can be bad for your health.

Here Comes a Grudge

The negative emotions that come with holding on to a grudge are actually a stress response. Just thinking about the event sends your body into fight or flight mode. When a threat is imminent, this reaction is essential to your survival. When a threat is ancient history, holding on to that stress wreaks havoc on your body and can have devastating health consequences over time. Holding on to a grudge means you’re holding on to stress, and researchers at Emory University have shown that holding on to stress contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease. Learning to let go of a grudge will not only make you feel better now but can also improve your health over time. There are six steps to letting go. Follow them closely and watch your grudges disappear.

Step 1. Take control.

You need to take control of your life and decide that you are ready to let go of the grudge. This means no more waiting for the other person to apologize or somehow make it right. When you’re waiting for someone else to act, you’re giving him or her control over you. Letting go of the grudge is about your own health and well-being. It’s essential you do it on your own terms.

Step 2. Make it for YOU.

The process of forgiveness and letting go is for you, not the person you’re forgiving. Forgiving can be hard to do when the person you’re forgiving doesn’t deserve it. You’re choosing to let go for your own health and happiness, and the other person doesn’t need to know that you’ve forgiven him or her. You’re not letting the person off the hook or inviting him or her to repeat the offense—you’re just letting the past be the past.

Step 3. Step into his or her shoes.

Take a moment to think about the situation from the other person’s perspective. This will help you understand why he or she acted that way. Sometimes, you’ll discover extraneous circumstances that make the other person’s actions easier to take. Other times, you’ll find zero justification for his or her actions, and that’s okay. Either way, you’ll improve your perspective and possibly develop some empathy to assist you in letting go.

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