5 Ways to Stop Sulking

ways to stop sulking

Human behavior can be puzzling, particularly when attitudes from childhood resurface in our adulthood. Sulking, or a moody display of aloofness or huffiness, is unbecoming in children – more so in adults, when we’re supposed to have already matured past this kind of passive-aggressive behavior. Champion sulkers tend to say, “I’m fine, it’s nothing,” even while clearly displaying a facial expression and vocal tone to the contrary. If you find yourself slipping into this kind of behavior – almost helplessly, despite your best efforts – then something is definitely amiss. How do you get past the funk? Read on.

Recognize that you’re sulking.

The first thing you need to do is admit to yourself that you are, indeed, sulking. Take stock of your facial expression – is your mouth pinched into a pout, have you averted your eyes, or turned your body away from the person you’re with? Have you withdrawn from the conversation, or instead, are responding in monosyllables or barbs? Do you feel resentment or anger toward the person you’re with? Do you feel like exploding if you don’t repress your feelings? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you are definitely sulking. Once you admit this to yourself, you can better “shake off the brood.”

Find out why you feel the need to act sulky.

There must be a reason why you’re feeling bad-tempered and acting it out in this manner. What triggered your sulk? Was it a careless statement from another? Was it a perceived slight? Do you feel misunderstood or ill-used? Sulking is attention-seeking behavior: we seek to influence the other person into behaving differently towards us, but we don’t do it in a straightforward way. Perhaps you’ve already tried to communicate your feelings but the other person’s response – or lack thereof – has made you feel rebuffed, helpless, even mistreated. Perhaps you feel impatient, assuming that the other person should be able to realize on their own that something is wrong. Know why you’re sulking, and know exactly what you want to accomplish. Only then can you consider an alternative way to act.

Decide to engage: communicate effectively.

Sulking is also symptomatic of a perceived lack of control – perhaps we are overwhelmed by what we are feeling – and this is an attempt to take back that control or get a looked-for response. However, sulking can also result in the other person being completely mystified at what they could have possibly done wrong and what is expected of them to make amends. It may backfire into the other person feeling angry, hurt and resentful as well. Instead of withdrawing in a fit of pique, why not engage the other person in honest conversation? Communicate exactly what you are feeling: “Please listen to me. Please understand why I’m feeling this way. Can you do me the favor of being patient?” You can also take the direct route if the other person has wronged you and you were hoping that he’d take the hint. Just say, “Please hear me out. I was hurt by what you just did.” An open discussion may be uncomfortable, but it will clear the air.

Take a “time out.”

If you’re not the confrontational type, or if you need to cool off before attempting any sort of conversation, then by all means, give yourself some time off. One tactic is to prepare for the eventuality that you will need some time to think – you have a code for it, such as simply saying, “Time out” – and you can then temporarily disengage and the other person knows that you are not trying to punish them by your silence. Find the time, however, to re-engage and communicate, when you’re confident that it will not devolve into an argument. Also, be considerate: don’t leave the other person in suspense for very long. Yours are not the only feelings being held in the balance.


Thinking things over minus the temper tantrum can also mean pursuing an activity that is calming, soothing, and productive. Some people opt to take out their frustration by doing chores – cooking, cleaning and sorting one’s immediate environment is instantly gratifying. However, another way to work through a sulk is to meditate. It will relax you, reduce your stress, and give you insight into your own behavior and personality. On the physiological side, meditation enhances brain function and you are able to think more rationally. On the wellness side, meditation allows you to be at peace with your inner self and how you relate to the world at large.

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