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The benefits of responding rather than reacting

Mar 01, 2021

Paper chase

Last week, I had a stark reminder of why it’s so important to think before we react to anything.

Two of my daughters do a newspaper delivery and whilst out and about delivering last week, one of them was stopped by a guy who asked if she was delivering on that road. She replied that she was, and he asked if the house she was outside was next. She replied yes and so he handed her a bunch of leaflets and asked if she could deliver those as well. Slightly confused not knowing who he was, she took them and off he drove.

At first, she thought they might be from the newspaper distribution company – often piles of leaflets are left with the newspapers to be added to the delivery, so she thought they’d been forgotten, and someone had caught up with her on her round so they could be added in.

She then realised, when looking at the leaflet that it was about an event taking place in the area, in late summer (I don’t know about you but when Boris announced the roadmap out of this pandemic, I got a bit over-zealous, bought tickets to a festival and also booked a camping trip for August! So clearly, community groups had excitedly and hurriedly put their thinking caps on to come up with an event for the surrounding area for a bit of community togetherness, something which has been much missed). My daughter was then confused because her newspaper round stopped a few houses ahead, yet she’d been handed about fifty leaflets. Did the guy want her to deliver all these leaflets? She’d finished her round. So, was she now expected to backtrack and start again?

All this was going on in her head. Confusion. She phoned her elder sister, also out delivering newspapers and told her what had happened and asked what she thought she should do. Her sister told her to take the leaflets home and ask me my thoughts.

So, my daughters arrive home and explain what had happened. I was not happy at all and my reaction was totally knee-jerk. Reflecting on it, I didn’t consciously decide how I wanted to think about the situation and if I had, I could have slowed it down and had a much more informed response. I could have been calmer and much more open to the whys and wherefores.

It is at this juncture I shall explain how the brain employs the Winning Edge’s Choice Model when we are making a decision - making a choice.

Choice of the matter

The Choice Model, along with the Thinking to Results model, is one of the foundations of the Winning Edge programme and helps us to understand why it’s so important to understand the power our thoughts have on producing our emotions and thus our response to people and situations. By thinking consciously about the nature of our thinking, we can understand we are in total control of the responses we give, that rather than to react, we can be response-able.

This is actually the Masterclass teaching in Level Three of the Mindset Coaching Membership and goes into the finer detail of the Choice Model – very often a lightbulb moment for many. It’s liberating and empowering to know we are in control – that nobody can make us feel anything, the choice is down to us.

When making a choice, our brain will run through five choice drivers – our Imagination, Conscience, Beliefs – which includes the beliefs we hold about ourselves which can very often be self-limiting, Values and Awareness, including our self-awareness. These choice drivers will influence the way we feel about the situation we face and the decisions we make. If we’re not consciously aware of this, very often we can make habitual default responses.

So, when the situation with the leaflets was put to me, here’s how my brain worked at that point, without me giving it due conscious thought. My imagination said: ‘Who was this? Could they not be bothered to deliver the leaflets themselves? What is this event? Are they elderly, maybe thought my daughter could save them some schlepping about?  Or maybe they just couldn’t be bothered to do the deliveries themselves.’ My conscience said: ‘I wouldn’t do something like that. No way. It just isn’t right.’ My Belief choice driver said this: ‘You can’t just stop a young person and hand a bunch of leaflets to them, palming your job off onto them.’ My Values said: ‘My daughter’s safety is important to me. Who was this person?’ And finally, my Awareness Choice Driver: ‘This surely must be someone local. But who? I can find out I’m sure.’

I felt very cross and confused. My daughter on the hand was just a bit bemused by the whole thing and relieved I wasn’t expecting her to retrace her steps and deliver the leaflets.

Lightening Rod

I did a bit of research – looking on Facebook mainly, and worked out the main protagonists who are involved in organising these kinds of events in our area. Along with my daughter’s fairly sketchy description, again by looking at Facebook photos, I could work out who the leaflet bearer was. I knew a friend of a friend would probably have their contact details and so procured their phone number. I called but luckily, there was no answer, so I left a message. The gap of an hour before he phoned me back was the best thing that could have happened.

And that ensuing conversation was like me attempting to read small print and then putting my reading glasses on – suddenly all became crystal clear. It turns out that Rodney (let’s call him that for anonymity sake) had asked my daughter to deliver the leaflets to that particular house, the one she’d been standing outside when he’d stopped and spoken to her, because the occupant would then deliver the leaflets to the surrounding roads.

Rodney had assumed my daughter understood his request, drove off, happy that his mission was complete. In his wake, stood a confused teenager, ear buds in having been listening to music, so had missed the first part of what he’d said, perplexed as to why she was now expected to re-start her round, delivering leaflets which had nothing to do with her.

Perspective is a funny ole thing – my daughter and Rodney both had completely different views of what had just taken place. And so did I.

Poor Rodney was profusely apologetic when I explained that my daughter was totally baffled and so the leaflets were now sat at home with me. It got even more confusing for the person who was supposed to have received the pile of leaflets, when my daughter put just one through her door! They got a phone call to explain, and thankfully, all’s well that ends well.

Slow down fast

So, you see, if Rodney had picked up the phone when I first called, I could have created a completely different outcome because I was reacting to the situation rather than being response-able. It could have become very awkward if I’d have shot from the hip, because from Rodney’s point of view, he had made a perfectly reasonable request. However, that delay in speaking to him meant a space was created which on the Winning Edge programme, we call to MUMMS something – to Make Up My Mind Slowly, I had time to calm down and therefore we had a very different conversation because I had had time to think it through with a quieter brain.  

By creating that space when we MUMMS something, we can decide how we want to respond to a person or situation, and thus we can be a lot calmer and have clarity. As the writer Ambrose Pierce once said: “Speak when you are angry, and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”

By consciously working through our choice drivers and asking ourselves: ‘How do I want to feel about this?’, we can choose how we respond to a situation – we have the choice to either fan the flames or to enact our inner sprinkler system to calm those busy and less than productive thoughts. There are undeniably times when we react rather than respond but it’s knowing that no one can make us feel anything – it is completely within our control, if we consciously are aware of the nature of our thoughts.

Never say never

Now, there’s an important distinction to make here, it’s not that I’m saying you should never get upset, annoyed, frustrated or angry. It’s knowing people can’t do it to you. Anger can be a very motivating emotion. You might choose to get angry, you might choose to get annoyed. Choosing to be frustrated or annoyed about something because it goes against your values or conscience is sometimes the right response. Sometimes, there are occasions when showing someone we are upset and angry is a catalyst for positive change, but it’s knowing we do that to ourselves. Unfortunately, there are far too many situations when someone doesn’t think before they react and things can escalate, rather than be calmly understood or resolved. On the Winning Edge, we quote Aristotle:

“To get angry is easy, but to get angry on the right grounds, with the right person, in the right manner, at the right moment for the right length of time, not so easy.”

This incident was a wake-up call for me, that even though I know this mindset stuff, I need to remember to be much more aware of when I am reacting to something – I need to MUMMS these kinds of situations to ensure I give a much more considered response.

Next time you’re in a situation where you feel the hackles rise, stop, slow everything down and MUMMS it if there is the opportunity to. Above all, decide how you want to feel and be response-able.



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