Behavior is Always a Choice


Behavior is always a choice. That’s it. That’s the post. But if you want to keep reading, I’ll share a few thoughts about why this is critical to understand, and how it can help you be a better human if you incorporate that understanding into your behavior.

In the daily grind, it’s easy to forget all the ways that we have control over our behavior. We get moving quickly, caught up in the fast pace of work and life. It’s easy to gloss over our behavior choices. We make excuses for them instead of recognizing that we’re the only ones controlling our behavior. Period. (Unless you’re in a hostage situation. You get a pass.)

Yep, I’m still learning. Every f-ing day.

I had a tough-to-hear piece of feedback after a workshop I gave this week. The feedback reflected how some of my words had affected a young woman in attendance. Her feedback caused me lots of feelings. I was alarmed to hear how some of my words had landed with her, as she indicated they had caused her harm. My heart rate went up. The whole room of 25 people was silent, listening.

In that moment, as in every moment, I had a choice. I could have gotten defensive, as younger me probably would have. I could have argued with her about how she’d misunderstood my message and intent. Instead, my son’s words popped into my head. “If you step on my toe and didn’t mean to, that doesn’t mean my toe stops hurting.” So, I took a breath and led with an apology for anything I did that caused her to feel harmed. I asked permission to clarify my intent while acknowledging that it wouldn’t change how she’d heard it, but might help us find common understanding. I invited further conversation outside of the workshop. Finally, I thanked her for having the courage to speak up and offer such honest feedback in a room full of people she mostly did not know.

This isn’t about me. It’s about you.

I am not sharing this story for pats on the back. I’m sharing it to make a point. In every moment, but especially the really difficult ones that make us uncomfortable, we have a choice. Remember that you can choose. When we can choose a behavior that makes someone else feel seen and heard, we are investing in each other. Choose that kind of behavior as often as possible.


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