Have you ever experienced the anxiety that comes with going into a situation, whether it be with a friend, boss, co-worker, romantic partner or family member — knowing things have the potential to “get ugly?”
Several years ago, I was on edge about spending time with someone who, in the past, had really pushed my buttons. I’m not proud to admit it, but the button pushing was mutual. When we were in a room together, sooner or later, one of us would detonate the other. Tempers would boil and we’d wind up sweating it out like two greased up oil wrestlers grappling for world domination.
In other words, we’d REACT.
Reactions are thought-less.
Meaning, there’s no thought power behind them.
They’re fueled solely by emotion.
More often than not, they’re knee-jerk repetitions (that’s why they’re called RE-actions) of what we tend to do on an unconscious level when we feel insecure, disrespected, or rejected, etc.
We may lash out, storm away, or fire off a scathing text or e-mail.
In the moment, that energy release may feel as satisfying as putting on warm clothes straight out of the dryer.
But in truth, our re-activity only tends to ignite or add more fuel to an already heated situation—and sooner or later, we usually come to regret our actions, don’t we? What’s more, we may discover we irreparably injured relationships with people we actually care about. In a professional setting? We may come to learn that we permanently damaged our reputation.
So if you’re heading into a potentially heated situation and fear we’ll be tempted to lose your cool, what do you do?
Earlier, I mentioned that re-actions are driven by our unconscious mind. Therefore — it’s absolutely necessary to go into any potentially sticky situation with a conscious strategy already in place.
So I want to share a super duper simple (but powerful) tool with you that I initially used all those years ago when I knew I was going to be facing my pseudo “oil-wrestling opponent.” I was determined NOT to participate in a repeat performance of our previous showdowns.
This simple tool will 1) give you a sense of control in any stressful situation 2) hijack the way you have historically (and unconsciously) re-acted in the past and 3) consistently provide you with the ability to respond from a CONSCIOUS place of your own choosing so you leave the situation with your integrity and self-respect intact.
Here it is:
- Before you go into the situation, choose a word to embody: kindness, patience, helpfulness, grace, confidence, integrity, courage, love, peace etc.
- Prepare. Take some time to visualize yourself moving through the situation as the embodiment of that word.
- Enter the situation as the personification of the word you’ve chosen.
- When and if you feel triggered, PAUSE. (I repeat. PAUSE.)
- Ask yourself, “If I were to come from a place of _______________(insert your word), how would I respond?
- Recalibrate your actions and language to consciously come from the embodiment of the word you’ve chosen.
- If it’s impossible to recalibrate in the moment, then by all means excuse yourself, step away from the situation, and recalibrate your response using this tool. When you’re ready, return to the situation and proceed.
I know. This is simple. But it’s not always easy, is it?
Some people can really get under our skin, can’t they?
I’m not going to lie. You’re probably going to experience some discomfort in this process. Remember: you’re most likely rerouting years worth of (unconscious) habituated re-actions.
But my clients have used this simple strategy to successfully navigate sticky employee/employer situations, contract negotiations, hard to handle relatives, difficult conversations with friends, divorce mediation – even to circumvent the unwanted habit of yelling at their kids because they’re dragging their feet getting ready for school.
And me? All those year ago, when I was going to be facing my pseudo “oil wrestling opponent,” I chose to embody the word, “peace.” Did my buttons get pushed? You bet they did! Was I tempted to re-act? Oh, yeeees! But above and beyond all else, I was wholeheartedly committed to the idea of consistently responding from a peace-filled place. This meant that I often needed to (instantaneously) release my desire to get defensive. Sometimes it meant that I (instantaneously) needed to release my desire to say anything at all. The result? Due to my unwillingness to fuel any fire, the situation never got heated. Even more amazing, my “opponent’s”defenses were lowered, and they came to respond to me from a peace-filled place as well.
In the end, our relationship was forever changed — all because I chose to embody a simple word: peace.
Wishing you a peace-filled day!