Reacting or Responding can make a huge difference in our interactions and thus our relationships. It requires awareness and practice, as well as the discipline to master our emotions of the moment. Is it hard, you bet! But worth it, as we improve relationships and deepen connections.
Why? People like to be heard; to know their thoughts and opinions matter, to feel that they have impact on others. One way to offer this is to really listen to what someone is saying and rather than a knee-jerk reaction, to pause and take time to think about the best response for the moment.
I struggle with this. I am a quick thinker and speaker… and I have lots of feelings that can spill into any interaction if I am not careful.
The other day, our daughter was sharing about some work worries, and I went into “fix-it” mom mode, and reacted with all kids of suggestions, helpful insights and hints. Nothing controversial or difficult, but the timing was way off! She didn’t need helpful hints and a to-do list, she was really just venting. She needed to be reassured it would work out and to have me listen and carry her worry with or for her.
Had I paused, I would have realized this… or at least I could have asked, “Are you venting, and need me to just listen or do you want some help figuring out some action items?”
That would have been a thoughtful response, because I paused and thought about her needs, not mine, which were to fix it, give her hope and dispel any concerns.
I “missed” her – it was a swing and a miss on my part. When what was needed was for me to not take a swing at solving her problems at all.
I needed to respond, not react from my worry or desire to help.
Have you done that? Reacted quickly instead of thoughtfully responding?
When we do it brings distance or conflict to the conversation and relationship. Sometimes I wish there was a buzzer that went off when I got it wrong. (or at least a warning light- road closed!) Then I would be able to catch my self sooner. Often, I am well into the conversation and reacting before I realize or remember to Pause, Ponder and then Respond.
When I do catch myself, I have learned to stop, name what happened and try again. This has helped me not continue on the wrong road, drive off the end an alienate my kids, husband, friends! It is humbling, and sometimes hard to stop myself, say “I blew it, sorry,” and “Can I try that again?”, in the moment. But it IS worth it.
Have you ever caught yourself mid reaction and reeled it in to try again? How did it go? What was the impact?
Were you more aware the next time?
And any ideas where I can find one of those “danger Will Robinson” buzzer buttons, to help me catch myself sooner?