Tag Archives: Respond


24 Mar

We make dozens of decisions every day.  Sometimes they need no thought – I have to go to the store, pickup the mail, get the car washed, be at work early – things like that.  There are decisions we make quickly because we don’t really have to think about them, we just need to get things done.  But other times we make fast decisions in situations when we really should wait for a moment before we decide what to say or what to do.  We jump.  Oftentimes we jump because our feelings are involved and that “fight or flight” thing comes into play.  When someone says or does something that hurts us, we can immediately jump to an action or statement that can quickly escalate the situation.  We get cut off on the road so we lean on the horn and shout out some sort of damning expletive that makes us feel better, but does nothing to improve the situation.  “You idiot!  Who taught you to drive!  Get off the road you ass!”  You probably will feel temporarily better for having told that horrible person who dared to cut you off how you feel about it.  But in reality, you have done nothing to change anything.  He is still there in his car, ignoring you, being who he is and really not caring what you think.  So the question then comes, is it wise to jump?

In our personal relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and everyone else in our sphere, there will inevitably be times when we will be hurt or disappointed in something someone is doing or has done.  We take it personally.  We feel unfairly treated and if we jump, we say things to hurt the offending party right back.  After all, they deserve it – they hurt us first.  But sometimes our perceptions of what happened may be incorrect.  And if they are and we jump to respond, we can damage those relationships and lose the trust others have in us.  A friend of mine has been dating a man for a while.  He says he’s madly in love with her but has been unable to move the relationship forward in any way.   She says she loves him but she isn’t sure he will ever really commit to a future with her and she isn’t sure how long she should wait.  He has a lot of excuses for why he can’t move forward and they all sound good, but a couple of years have gone by and nothing has changed.  After careful consideration she decided to clearly discuss the matter with him and frankly and openly ask him what his plans were for the future.  She had tried before to do this but he skirted the issue and changed the subject.  This time she was determined to have an honest discussion with him so she could decide how she wanted to move forward with her life.  When she brought the subject up and told him she wanted to talk about their relationship and get his perspective on the future, he immediately lost his temper.  “Why are you asking me this?  Are you seeing someone else?  I thought you loved me!  I can’t believe this!  Have you been pretending all this time!” and on and on he went.  He jumped.   He was uncomfortable and instead of getting the facts and listening, instead of just taking a breath before he blurted out all of his concerns, he jumped.  Maybe he jumped to divert the conversation away from something he was clearly uncomfortable talking about.  Maybe he jumped because he knew he had made her wait too long and this conversation was inevitable.  Maybe he jumped because he was threatened.  Nobody knows why he jumped, but when he did, any hope of moving the conversation forward, to discussing the options before them as a couple, or understanding his point of view were lost.

Perhaps it would be wise when we feel that sting of hurt from something someone did, when we feel the threat of something coming, when we feel scared, when we get angry, perhaps it would be wise to just wait a moment.  Take a breath.  Don’t jump – yet.  Breathe.  Look at the situation again.  Breathe.  Get all the facts, listen, listen, listen, and then take another breath.  And then express yourself calmly.  If we can stop jumping and learn to control our responses, most of our conflict will become more manageable. Our interactions will become a little easier and we will feel better.  We can choose to jump and react or we can choose to think and respond.  If we practice taking that extra breath, just taking one moment to think before we jump, we will be more successful in understanding where we are and what is happening.  They say that knowledge is power.  I believe that’s true.  So stop, take a breath, get all the knowledge you can about the situation and then use your power to control your response.  Those around you will learn that they can trust you not to jump.  It will take some practice but it will be worth it.