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You Pick

23 Jan

We interact with all kinds of people every day. Sometimes we say hello in passing, sometimes we have long conversations and work together, and sometimes we have disagreements. If a discussion becomes intense, the disagreement may escalate. When things become contentious and tempers rise, we may become very uncomfortable. But we always have a choice to continue the conversation and let it play out no matter what, or stop and return to it again another time. Unfortunately, when we’re in the heat of the situation, especially if offensive things are being said, we may get so caught up that we forget to think about anything but pushing forward. Being in control of ourselves is easy when things are going well but when we’re in conflict it’s harder and more difficult to manage. However, no matter what is said or done, we always have the opportunity to choose how we will proceed. We can step back until things settle down, or we can go storming ahead and give it all we’ve got. We get to pick. Of course, the other party gets to pick too. But if they’re pressing the argument and we don’t want to continue, we can step away.

As human beings, we have all kinds of instinctive survival mechanisms. The fight or flight reflex is part of that. If we feel we’re being attacked, it prompts us to either fight back or leave the situation. Which way we go depends on how we’re wired and how much self-control we can exercise at the time. For some of us the first response to threat is to fight. For others the first thought is to run – or leave the situation. We’re all geared a little differently but no matter what we instinctively feel, we have the option to control our response by thinking about it first. If we’re fighters, that means we have to stop before we escalate the situation further and think of a better plan. If we’re runners, we have to be brave enough to face the situation and determine how to navigate it more effectively. Either way, the choice is ours. The excuse some offer when things go wrong of, “That’s just how I am,” is unhelpful. Conflict comes to us all. How we manage it is up to us.

Sometimes even if we try to modify a volatile situation, or try to diffuse the tension, the other party will not back down. That is their choice and if that happens and nothing we say or do improves the situation, if things continue to escalate and we don’t feel secure, we can walk away. We don’t have to stay engaged in any interaction that makes us feel distressed or threatened. We are entitled to do what is best for us. Even if the other party has some sort of authority over us, we may calmly state that we are not comfortable and need to leave. Sometimes just stating our discomfort will diffuse the situation and things will improve. Sometimes not. Every situation is different but we have the right to feel calm and safe in all our dealings. We are valuable and important. We can pick what we’ll do and what we’ll take. We can choose to stay and continue an exchange or we can leave. Leaving doesn’t mean we’re conceding or giving up. It means we are choosing to control how we will go forward.

Today if you’re involved in a discussion that makes you uncomfortable, decide how you want to handle it. You can try to work through it or you can leave and return to it another time. You can be polite and respectful and get what you need to go forward. Your feelings are valuable and should be honored. You can be in control of yourself. Be confident and choose what is best for you.

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