You know the moment - the one that goes by all too quickly and leaves you regretting something you did or said. It happens so fast. This is what I refer to as a reaction. What if instead of reacting to situations, we responded. What’s the difference? Responding involves a conscious choice.
One of the ways that I have increased my own and supported others in increasing their capacity to respond instead of react is by using one of my very favorite personal resources - your breath. A long, slow, deep and intentional breath.
When we find ourselves in a situation and we are reacting, usually we are doing that because something has triggered our need to defend or protect ourselves from something. Sometimes that’s helpful - like if a ball is suddenly flying at your face, it’s good that we can react without thinking. You can avoid a broken nose. Fun fact...that actually happened to me a long time ago but my reaction sucked and my nose was broken in 8 places! But in general, that kind of reaction when it happens is a good thing. That same type of reaction though doesn’t usually work out so well when we are having a discussion with our partner, kids, boss, co-workers, family, friends…etc. If we react, even if it’s really an attempt to defend or protect ourselves, it usually damages the discussion and potentially the relationship if it keeps happening over time.
So back to the breathing thing…
What would be different if you could practice and train yourself to recognize those moments of potential reaction and before doing anything else, you took one of those long, slow, deep and intentional breaths? The kind that allows you to hit the pause button on what’s currently happening. And what if in that moment of pause, you were able to make a conscious choice about how you actually wanted to respond? What if nothing else, it kept you from acting like a jerk and saying something that you really didn’t mean or already knew wasn’t going to be helpful to you. Maybe you linger in that pause, and maybe you are able to see a better option of how to respond and you actually do that. Maybe you realize you have no idea how to respond but reacting isn’t it so you say something like, “I’m not sure how to respond to this and I’m going to have to think about it and come back to this discussion later.”
You see the breath, it’s a moment, and in that moment, it creates an opportunity. An opportunity for you to consider, to check in, to align yourself with your values and desires, to follow through with what you said you are trying to do. I mean you may still decide to respond like a jerk and while that’s not always going to be ideal, I’d rather you make that a conscious choice than feel reactive to what someone else is throwing at you. Unless it’s a ball - always react to that and do it quick!
With a brave heart (and a deep breath),