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Reaction-Or The Root Of The World’s Problems

No, Im not kidding, this week’s blog is universal in the widest possible sense. When Newton spoke about equal and opposite reactions he really was on to something. This is such a huge topic it’s difficult to know where to start but start we must and the easiest place to start is with oneself.

We all react to things at various levels many times a day. We wake up late (damn) we have no coffee (drat) and then we drop our toast on the floor and it lands, of course, butter side down (that’s it I’ve had enough I’m going back to bed). The reactions we have to these things would change if we had different thoughts about them. For example if it were a Sunday and we had absolutely nothing on and we woke up late compared to a Monday morning with a very important 8.30am meeting? Our thinking, therefore our emotions, therefore our reaction would be very, very different in each case. All this and we haven’t even left the house yet!

Reaction is very normal, it’s human and even if you are the coolest cucumber in the box you will still experience reaction, you just might not display it as clearly as the drama queen next door. The good thing about reaction is that eventually it comes to a natural end as normal service resumes we begin to think more clearly and start to work things out (Do I make another piece of toast or just run for the train?) We call this ‘reframe’ a state of thinking that is really useful when we are trying to get some clarity about something. We will get to this another time but for now its time to launch our reactive little human out into the world of billions of other reactive little humans and see what happens (looking for the gritted teeth emoji right now).

So when we hear something for the first time (our first client cancelled, we didn’t get the order or our co worker just right royally messed up on something important ) we react, and, as we now know our reaction depends upon how we think about that thing; what’s the real or imagined impact on us, how do we perceive our own and other peoples behaviour at the time, How do we feel about it all? And, when we react towards someone guess what, they react right back towards us. 

“How on earth did you manage to mess that up?”

“Well I had a lot on my mind and you weren’t around”

“But I thought you said you could handle it?”

“Well I did just not in the way you would have done it”

“The right way”

“The wrong way”

You get the idea. This interaction will either die out quite quickly or explode. The perfect position would be if we could get these people out of the cycle of reaction and all of the emotion that surrounds it and into ‘reframe’ but as long as they continue to pour fuel on each others fire the reaction just keeps on coming.

Now there is one thing that really doesn’t work. Never ever in the history of telling someone to “calm down” has anyone ever actually calmed down. In fact that phrase should only be sold with the licence that they sell fireworks with. Equally, telling someone “Im going to tell you something but I don’t want you to react” has and never will prevent reaction. These well known phrases exist because humans simply hate reaction in others. We find it icky, awkward or just downright terrifying, best to be avoided altogether. But, you need to manage your business, expectations and people right? How on earth do you make decisions, communicate your requirements, ask people to make changes and adjustments, give bad news, give good news and not have anyone react back at you? In short, you don’t. Reaction is part of being a human and even more obvious when you are required to manage the reaction of other humans because you run a business.

Now in order that I don’t completely ruin your Christmas let me give you a little gift. This gift will manage reaction perfectly and might just come in handy over the holidays.

If you find yourself in a situation where someone is reacting at you, ranting, frustrated, annoyed, upset or overwhelmed use this. Imaging you are holding a piece of card, facing you are the words “It is not about you” on the other side facing the reactive person it says “tell me more’. In a reactive situation take said imaginary card and point “tell me more” at the person, just keep asking them to tell you a little more, listen very carefully and then ask them to tell you a bit more. Whilst doing this remind yourself over and over that what they are saying and doing ‘is not about you’ it’s just reaction. It can ‘feel’ very personal but it isn’t, it’s just reaction. If you mine the reaction from someone rather than trying to put a stopper on it, or throw fuel on it (trying to fix their problem does this very well “may I suggest…” is pretty much a red rag to a bull) eventually there will be no more, it runs out. Like handkerchiefs from a magicians hat you get to the end eventually. At this point normal thinking service can resume. It’s very important to keep to the script here, no improvisation, no padding out your own part ok? You have three words to say, that’s it. Stick to the script!

So we made a start on the enormous topic of reaction. Next time I’ll talk a little bit about how people cannot hear a thing when they are reacting making it a highly effective political tool and what you do when the handkerchiefs stop coming? Look out for our posts about inspiring businesses or get in touch to tell us about yours!

1 Comment

  1. Denise Murrow

    This script has become invaluable to me!! Jane has transformed the way I handle staff interactions and how I am able to separate myself from other peoples reactions and not take things personally….gamechanger.

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