What can we do to ensure our responses are appropriate, empowering, skilful and characterful?
I had an altercation the other day when out walking Mona, our dog.
She was set upon by a smaller but vicious dog. And although the other dog was on a lead, it was on an extendable one and so was able to take a run and jump at Mona.
In a state of panic, I overreacted and tried swiping the dog away.
Things calmed quickly enough. The other dog walker apologised and recognised that his dog should have been on a shorter lead. I apologised and recognised I had overreacted.
But the incident got me to thinking about a saying I had heard just days previously;
Our destinies are not shaped by what is thrown at us,
but by how we respond or react to what is thrown at us.
There are many different takes on this. Does this highlight our basic personality, our character, or does it reveal our hidden fears?
It is often said that there are three of us. Not the oft quoted ‘me, myself and I’, but rather:
- the us we see ourselves to be,
- the us others see us to be,
- and the us we are when in a stressful situation.
Our default personality traits (even if never consciously considered) are invariably how we see ourselves. If we take the example of DISC personality profiling, we can see how this might pan out.
High D’s, who are our Dominant types, can see themselves as driven, decisive and determined. While others might see them as demanding, forceful and thriving on a challenge. In a stressful situation they may feel the need to be in control and confrontational.
High I’s, who are our Influencers, can see themselves as naturally outgoing and people orientated which keeps them upbeat and optimistic against all the odds. While others may see them as shallow, impulsive and lacking focus. In a stressful situation they may feel the need for distractions and if cornered, verbal sarcasm.
High S’s, who are our Steadiness types, can see themselves as steady, stable and sincere. Others may see them as slow, stuck in the mud, status-quo driven. And in stressful situations they may feel the need to shrink back and withdraw, or put up the barriers for full on passive resistance.
High C’s, who are our Conscientious, can see themselves as capable, considered and logical. Others may see them as pernickety, pedantic and critical. And in stressful situations they may feel the need to avoid risks at all costs, or become paralysed by over analysis.
See my YouTube Video for further information on DISC.
If actions convey our character, reactions convey our lack of character.
To counter this, we need a mechanism for ensuring we can respond appropriately so our actions become habitual, positive and characterful. This is all the more important now as life stressors become more and more a daily part of life.
This is equivalent in many ways to moving from a position of disempowering to empowering action, or from a Buddhist perspective, of shifting from unskillful to skillful thinking and doing.
So, what can we do to ensure our responses are appropriate, empowering, skilful and characterful?
- The first thing we need to do is raise our own self-awareness of who we are, our default and habitual responses.
- We then need to accept that there is indeed a need to realign some of our own responses so they become less reactive and more empowering.
- Once we have identified specific aspects to work on we can strengthen our future actions, based on stronger beliefs in ourselves. This in turn will strengthen our self-confidence and our abilities, giving us a greater sense of control and optimism.
- Working alongside this is the need to be able to bring our emotions, especially those quickly arising emotions, back into balance. To do this we can practice breathing, or calming and affirmative thoughts.
- Throughout we also need to recognise that there will be slippage and all will not go as planned all the time. Recognise this, accept it, and practice some more for the next time. This is easiest done with a good support network. Talk to friends, family and colleagues – but be aware you are not looking for collusion here but for positive and affirmative support.
- As relapses happen, as they will, do not scold yourself. Use the opportunity to learn. What was the trigger? Is this a trigger that is recurring? What is stopping you from changing towards this trigger?
Bringing it all together
For any positive change to take place there is a need first and foremost for raised self-awareness.
“Without awareness there is no choice.”
John F. Barnes
Dealing with our daily stressors requires a number of key life skill, such as, taking time out, reflection on the evidence, breathing, affirmation, being optimistic and positive, and the need to stop criticizing ourselves or looking for perfection. All of which come through personal development and practice so we can respond appropriately to empower, in a skilful and characterful way.
Respond, don’t react.
Pre-order my book DISCover the Power of You: How to Cultivate Change for Positive and Productive Cultures due for publication through John Hunt Publishing Ltd in August 2017.
See https://www.robertadams.uk.com/ for Transformational Workbook which can be used for self development or team and organisational development.