Visceral reactions

At least once a week, we all have something come across our inbox (whether a voice mail, text message, email or otherwise) that triggers a visceral reaction. The reaction could lead to responding in ways that will not only be unproductive, but could make us regretful.

The trick is to find a way to put enough space between the initial reaction and the response. I’ve found the more time I put between the two, the more opportunity I have to think through things and come up with a reasoned response based on logic and not emotion. Something that is more likely to be productive for all parties involved.

How to inject that time and not immediately react? I’ve found reflection helps. Even if I do react to something, when the regret kicks in, I tend not to dwell over the problem but think about how I could have responded differently. I’ll spend the time I wish I would’ve spent thinking. And then I’ll find a way to re-respond after I’ve had time to think. Often, after plenty of time has passed to make sure I’ve thought things through.

In time, it has become easier to know when I’m going to react irrationally and catch myself. To agree to not respond for a period of time. And to get to thinking about it. Sometimes it helps to put a few days in between, to give my mind a chance to visit, forget and revisit things. Let things float around and make connections with other memories to form the best possible response to make things better for everyone involved, not just myself.

Thinking about the desired outcome of the situation, and how that’s mutually beneficial to everyone involved is also a great way to brainstorm more appropriate responses. It alleviates a delayed response that will still trigger another visceral reaction by someone else.

How have you reacted lately to something that triggered a deep emotional response? Could time have given you an opportunity to respond in a manner to improve the outcome for yourself and others?