How To Respond Better To Interactions That Trigger You

coaching Jan 29, 2020

We all go through moments of feeling down, hurt, frustrated and just tired. Such is the nature of life – its ups and downs – darkness and light. Yet even in those moments we have a choice in how we respond and react, firstly to ourselves and then to others. I’m not saying this is easy, just that you have a choice and it starts with self-awareness. 

In any given moment you have an opportunity to choose to feel better, be better and do better

And from this space of being self-aware you can be compassionate with yourself and others, so that you can make better choices.

In every given moment we are at a crossroad, in the sense that we can decide to behave this way or that or say this or that. Our response is normally a reflex based on our unconscious patterns and habits. How can you be more conscious of your responses and reactions on a daily basis?

Pause, ask & listen, and then respond.

We’re all at different stages in this triad. Some people naturally pause, perhaps to compose themselves; some just lash out immediately and some of us fluctuate between the two. You know which way you tend to go with this. Some people don’t ask themselves questions until after in reflection and then some do in the moment and then ignore the response! This approach is flawed! This triad works when you move through each corner efficiently, so let’s look at each piece.

PAUSE and take a breath

When it comes to creating better responses and cultivating healthier interactions in general, you must first notice what it is you’re actually doing. When someone says or does something that negatively triggers you, and by triggers you I mean you feel yourself getting emotional in a way that doesn’t serve you, pause before you respond. If you’re someone that naturally responds quickly to these instances, this will be particularly hard for you, but fear not it only take one conscious decision to pause instead and your entire response can change. So, focus only on the PAUSE. If anything, it will confuse the person in front of you and more often than not allow them to make a better choice in their responses too. Win win! Now let me be clear, I am not asking you to be quiet and not speak up for yourself when interacting. Instead I am asking you to pause for a few seconds, or as long as you need to move on to the next step in the triad.

ASK yourself quality questions and LISTEN for the answers.

 “How can I be more loving and compassionate in this interaction? What would my higher self, do in this situation? Will the response I’m about to make positively serve me and those around me? How can I respond in a way that makes me proud of myself?” Notice that all the questions are stated positively so that you can find the positive answers within them. Also, feel free to replace the words to match your values. For me love and compassion are important in interaction, but for you it could be something else – it’s about connecting with what truly matters to you – what you value. How can I be more honest and kinder, more direct and considerate? Whatever rocks you boat!

You know the answers. You know what types of responses will make you proud of yourself. You know if you’re being loving and compassionate and you know if you’re behaving in a way that will positively serve you and those around you.

The last part of the triad is to RESPOND from this better space you’ve created. Now that you know what your higher self would do, do that! Now that you know what a loving, compassionate response would be, do that! Now that you know what would make you proud of yourself, do that! And so on…

Now I know this isn’t easy and it certainly takes a lot practice. But what if you could just notice one moment today where you could choose to respond in a better way? What if you could just pause and create a small moment of self-awareness that you would then be able to act from? What if you asked yourself just one question that would allow you to respond from a better place? Eventually this triad becomes an unconscious dance within your interactions so you don’t even notice you’re doing it, but first you must start with the conscious awareness that allows you to shift what’s not working.

I was taught from a really young age that looking within for answers was healthy, so it was something that I practiced and got good at. However, for a big part of my life I had to work on being okay with confrontation because I would always do my best to avoid it even when it was necessary! So, in my interactions I was great at the pause part of the triad – maybe if I don’t respond this discomfort might end here! Then I spent a lot of time asking questions, but they weren’t always quality questions and not phrased in a way that enticed quality answers. I would have asked myself something along the lines of “what’s the fastest way to end this conversation?” and then would answer with “just say nothing”. Now when I ask myself how I can be more loving and compassionate, the answers are more like “allow space for others to speak. listen without judgement, speak honestly and calmly and so on and so forth. Let me be really clear on a key point – you must not allow others to disrespect you and verbally (or otherwise) abuse you, however, you must also not match their negative behaviour because then you are doing the same  thing as them. Let us hold ourselves to a much higher standard during our interactions and we will either inspire others to do the same or we will find that we no longer get a rise out of the interactions that use to negatively trigger us.

So just pick one thing that you could do today that would help you to create better interactions. Do you need to pause? Ask yourself questions and listen to the answer? Or just adjust your response? Remember that all you want to do is take responsibility for your own thoughts and actions, because they’re yours! And no one can determine what they are, but you!

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