Somebody says or does something that gets a reaction out of you. Then you react by saying something with an edge to it. They react back. A discussion or an argument emerges. Or you just disconnect and go away nursing your reactions to others…
The key thing that happens when you act on your reaction is that you stop understanding the other…even more you stop reflecting on the nature of the problem, the circumstances, the challenge, the threat or of the opportunities.
There are some interesting psychological explanations about whey people react before they fully understand the other person or the profound nature of a complex situation. Some of the more common are: 1. An unconscious separation or intimacy anxiety that gets triggered. 2. A feeling of embarrassment. 3. An impulsive desire to correct the other person’s misconception or modify his/her behavior. In each case you try to find some way to stop the other person or group in their tracks and try to get them to change their interpretation, change their perception or their judgment, their feeling or want.
It is easy to see in others, harder to notice in ourselves.
If we are truly in the business of learning and understanding we have to make a huge effort for overcoming a typical human mistake; to listen to the other person’s interpretation for a minute or so and then, without hearing their whole argument, start to describe what you see differently.
The wise people stop and hear the other person out fully before pointing out where they have a different experience. The wise people can be convinced on the basis of knowledge, compassion and healthy emotions.
Notice that almost all reactions are preceded by a story you made up, or by one that someone coined for you or by an event you are reacting to.
As we listen to people we are constantly making up what their experience is, what they really think or feel, their real motivations, what they know or don’t know.
Be alert. All that inner turmoil from a strong reaction might be based on a completely inaccurate interpretation. To cope with this common danger be still, think and pay a close attention. Catch the part of you that is prompt to reacting with a fight-or-flight response to the anxiety and just park it.
Warning. Whenever we hear someone saying something that is not part of our enduring belief system we want to correct them or fight them back. Even if we are “right” by quickly reacting we will not be getting the full story.
Thank God I am aging. As I get older I am learning to park my reactions, noticing when I have stopped listening and wanting to fight the other, but finally not doing it.
Copyright 2003 QBS, Inc.