Respond Versus React

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I manage a very diverse group of people at my job. There are many personalities and backgrounds, some older folks, and lately a lot of millennials. Managing all of these personalities can get tricky sometimes, especially when there is conflict. I, like many people I suppose, do not like conflict. I think that most of us feel like if we just leave it alone, it’ll go away. This is not a healthy solution because inevitably it doesn’t go away; it festers and becomes an even bigger issue.

Sometimes these personalities get very confrontational, and that can be even worse. People say things they don’t mean out of anger or frustration, and then, neither side is open to hearing the other and resolving the issue. Instead they are only concerned with holding their own position. Furthermore, when someone feels that they are being attacked, they go into fight or flight mode. We have all heard of this before. It is the “knee-jerk” reaction that comes from a very small part in the center of our brain—the amygdala. The key word here is reaction. This is why we need to practice to remain calm, take a pause, and allow ourselves (and the other person for that matter) time to process the situation. By doing that, we allow our frontal cortex to catch up. This is the part of the brain that has sense and reason. We need to be able to have reasonable thoughts about the situation so that we can respond rather than react. When we pause, it gives us room to assess and, if necessary, change our interpretation of events.

James 1:19
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

When these situations occur at work, I tell the people involved to take a few minutes to cool off before we reconvene to talk things over. Sometimes, we have to do this a couple of times before they get to a place where they can communicate without being combative. It’s hard to be calm when you believe you are being wronged! That is why it is so important to take a little time to really figure out what is going on inside yourself. Take a pause to listen; then you can respond rather than react.

When you are in conflict take a pause to ask yourself these questions:

  • What am I feeling?
  • Why am I feeling this way?
  • What is the role of the person that I’m in conflict with (what did they do or say?)
  • Why would a reasonable person do or say this?
  • What is my role in the problem?

Next Steps:
This is not an easy thing to do. It takes practice and intentionality. Write down these questions somewhere easily accessible, and intentionally pause to ask them the next time you have a conflict.

Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me such an amazing brain and complex emotions. Thank you for giving me guidance on how to use them in a healthy way. Help me to remain calm in volatile situations so I can listen well and respond rather than react to any situation. Amen.

This post was written by Kelda Strasbourg. Kelda is a grateful member of the LivingItOut writing team. She has a love for Jesus and desire to help others find that same love.

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