How many times have you instantly responded back to someone’s comment and regretted it after? Later you might think to yourself, ‘my ears didn’t hear what my mouth said … until it was too late.’ We may then start to worry about how others will view us. Regret usually follows as we remember the last 10 times or so that we also responded without thinking. We may, at first, try to justify our response. But after a short while we start to feel embarrassed and begin to put ourselves down. We add to the negative view we have of ourselves. Eventually we become worried that others might think we are always ‘that way.’
Our rapid fire responses comes from defensiveness or fear that we learned ages ago. Over time, we have developed a habit of striking back immediately at any perceived slight from an individual. We have become quite good at something that does not serve us well in the long run. But once habits are recognized they can be changed.
The author, Steven Covey, wrote about this in his book, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. His first habit is to ‘Be Proactive – Become aware of the Space’ between every stimulus and response to achieve greater happiness. That space – that moment in which we have the freedom to choose our response actually defines us. Do we choose anger or calm, a negative, positive or neutral reaction? When we become aware that we have an opportunity to redirect any challenging emotional response simply by using time (it may be only 30 seconds) which is the space Covey is referring to – between what happened and how we respond to it we put ourselves in the driver’s seat. We are able to use both our mind and heart to achieve personal growth and a feeling of being more in control. We then experience a more positive self concept and greater happiness. Just think … All this happens when we train ourselves to take a deep breath BEFORE reacting or responding to a comment or circumstance. As Covey said, “Next to life itself, this self-awareness of our freedom to choose, to direct our lives, is our most precious gift and power.”
The space thing is a big deal. Just like music, visual and performing arts, and writing the white space is purposeful. It allows for greater meaning and deeper understanding when we train ourselves to observe and work with it. Think of an actor who delivers his lines quickly compared to one that uses space and pauses for greater emotional impact. The space – the pause often speaks louder than the actual words.
There are no blue ribbons or best in show awards given to the person who practices a rapid fire response to life. In fact, it speaks volumes to the maturational level of the individual. Think of a young child – they react quickly to someone or something because they have not fully matured and developed a more appropriate response mechanism that will serve them better over time. They have not yet learned the magic of space and time.
When someone says something that sounds hurtful or uninformed the magic is in YOUR chosen response. Remember the concept of space and time. You can build up, educate and win or merely strike back. It really is a choice that is completely yours.
Have a great few days!