I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the past few years is how to respond rather than react. I think this is something that comes not only with maturity, but with taking a step back from everything and reflecting on yourself as a person.
We all struggle when someone says something about us: negative or positive. When someone attacks who we are, what we do, how we live, how we communicate, a lot of times our first reaction is to fight back (or in some cases run away). This is an instinct that is so ingrained in our society, the whole idea of fight or flight. That you have to stand up for who you are, that YOU HAVE TO say something.
But do you? Do you really?
The thing is, we DON’T HAVE TO REACT. We don’t have to feed into whatever the other person is trying to do. Note in the above paragraph I said that “our first REACTION”, but what if we take a moment. When someone attacks something that we’ve said or done, instead of that instant reaction, we take a moment.
Take a moment to breathe. Take a moment to figure out what that person has even said. Take a moment to listen to what we said, and then what they said. Then we RESPOND. We respond with insight, with calm clarity. Or, we don’t respond. We walk away. We say that’s not what we are interested in.
Easier said that done, right? I get it. It is DIFFICULT. It is so hard to break out of what is so ingrained into who we are and to break that initial instinct. BUT, if we break out of that path, what can happen? We can have a conversation (or we cannot), but there isn’t a further escalation. Things aren’t said out of anger. Things aren’t misconstrued. There is a constructive time for both sides to say what they need to and then move forward.
So many times I see a fight (or am, unfortunately in one) that could easily have been prevented if either side had RESPONDED with thought and insight, rather than REACTING out of anger and frustration. I’ve been in this very situation and I’ve said things that I have not meant, out of a reacting place. Out of a space of anger, where all I want to do is just lash out ( I mean we all have these moments).
You know what I’ve learned over the past few years of going down this path? Life is so much easier. When someone is saying something about me, it bounces off. If I need to respond to it, I think about who the person is that is saying this to me. Do I really need to respond? How is whatever they are saying affecting them or myself? Is this something that I want to open up to?
I ask myself these questions ALL THE TIME. When I am reading news articles, in conversations with friends/family, scrolling through social media. If any of the answers are no, then I just walk away. I DON’T SAY ANYTHING. I don’t engage in any way. It’s not worth the time, the effort, the emotional/mental output to even begin to engage in something that really isn’t important.
Ultimately, the two things I want to impress on you with this blog post are these:
- WE DON’T HAVE TO ENGAGE EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE WORLD. If it isn’t productive, positive, important, then it doesn’t need a response. If the answer to any of the above questions is no, then you don’t need to engage. And when I say don’t need to engage, I mean in any way. You don’t need to say that you aren’t going to respond, you don’t need to say a goodbye, you don’t need to say anything. You just move on past.
- WHEN WE DO WANT TO ENGAGE, WE CAN DO IT FROM A PLACE OF RESPONSE RATHER THAN REACT. If you want to have a conversation, then you need to be calm and collected. We need to come from a place where we can be open to listening to someone else, taking their ideas in and then volleying back with our own. If it goes to a place where you or the other person doesn’t want to be, then disengage.
It’s beyond just being kind to others. It’s a matter of taking the reaction bit out completely. If you feel attacked, step away, take a moment and then come back in. There is nothing wrong with saying “You know what, I am not interested at this time. I think that this is not the space for me to be in right now” and then walking away. That is mountains better than getting into a place of react, react, react.