A key lesson that I have learned over the past few years is that the easiest way to change how we respond to things or people we encounter is to have a system in place to help us. Frustration grows when it just seems like someone or something pushes our buttons every time. That trigger is going to continue to plague us until we change it. While it’s great when we can do that just by choosing to make that change, the reality is that it’s rarely that simple.
My experience has been that it really comes to down to sleuthing, solving the mystery, evaluating vs. judging. You see, that’s where I found the real issue. We can get so busy judging ourselves for our reaction, we don’t allow ourselves the opportunity to understand it. When we understand it, we are equipped to change it in a meaningful and sustainable way.
What you give meaning to is what causes your emotion. Before you react know why you are giving something so much energy or fear. When you begin to understand why you give things meaning you can begin to change how you react and why you do what you do. ~Shannon L. Alder
There are five key investigation tools to use that will help you master the art of reaction every time. Using the word REACT, let’s break them down.
R – Recognition
This is the first step. Simply recognizing it’s happening and taking responsibility for it. Just by asking ourselves if in fact we are reacting, we start a valuable chain reaction shift. We are taking responsibility for our side of the equation.
E – Emotion
Emotions are wonderful. They are such a part of what makes life such an exquisite experience. But they can also derail us when they are part of a triggered response. In my early training as an executive coach we broke this down into another acronym – FLAGS. We use that to identify the dominant emotion in our response. Fear, Love, Anger, Guilt or Sadness. FLAGS. Once we can pinpoint the emotion that’s involved we can begin to determine where the core response and put productive measures in place to handle it. If the trigger brings up guilt as an example, that’s very different from fear in terms of next steps. But in both cases, it is the initial recognition of the emotion that will lead us to the next right questions.
A – Attitude
What did you expect? Where are your sensitivities? Many years ago, when I was really struggling communicating with a fellow executive, I had a conversation with a trusted friend and mentor. He suggested that my sensitivities were high and that I was expecting a certain action and so that is what I saw. My attitude was a conditioning agent. I had to first be open to a positive exchange before one could happen. Being candid with ourselves about our expectations and attitude toward a person or situation is a critical part of our excavation to our solution.
C – Context
This was perhaps the most important element for me in a number of situations. Has someone ever asked you what a word meant and you weren’t certain or there were several possibilities? What do you normally ask them to do? I suspect it might be to ask them to use it in a sentence to help you better understand what it might mean. The context of anything is the ultimate lens for deciphering it’s meaning. What else is going on? Is it related? Not related? Is it influencing? One example might be that you’ve had a pretty long day and you’re physically exhausted. You’re tired. Does that seem to be a factor in some cases? Or perhaps there was an incident just prior that left some unresolved emotions that are spilling over.
T – Truth
What do you know to be true? This is an essential question because it allows us to get to the taproot of the situation quickly. When we take assumptions off the table or at least recognize them for what they are, we’re in fact clearing judgments and other potential mental or emotional clutter in reviewing our next steps.
RECOGNIZE what is happening;
Identify the dominant EMOTION;
Check your ATTITUDE coming into the situation;
Consider the CONTEXT of the situation; and,
Focus on what is TRUE.
That’s the process. That’s the system. Like anything regarding our personal framework, it’s also a skill. This can be your most effective system for productive personal change.
As a final note, remember that as we change ourselves, we are also creating the opportunity to change other people’s perspective of us as well. That’s especially true for those where we have influence but it’s also not limited there. When we employ this skill, we can inspire others to do the same. It creates a CHAIN REACTION that’s positive and constructive.
Live (react) today like you want tomorrow to be. Live (react) well.