Emotional Response vs. Thinking Response


We’ve all been there. Something happens at work that lights our hair on fire. We immediately want to hit, or yell, or ball up our fists and stomp around. But knowing that’s not acceptable behavior in most workplaces, most of us try to suppress that reaction. Instead, we try to not react for a minute. We might take a deep breath. We try to find a response that will be acceptable. That’s an example of an emotional response vs. a thinking response.

Emotional Response

When I was much younger and new in my adulting, I was not good at controlling my emotional responses. In fact, in community organizing, we were encouraged to feel the feels and allow things to outrage us. However, we were then supposed to channel that anger into productive and powerful action. Well, that last part eluded me at first.

Giving into the raw emotional reaction of the moment feels great. Unleashing and releasing all that emotion tends to make us feel better in the immediate term. But it doesn’t usually help after that immediate satisfaction of release.

Thinking Response

We all have our natural hard-wired tendencies. They are a good prediction of how we’re likely to respond to what’s happening in our environment. Deciding how to behave is a choice.

I’ve been in many situations at work which have lit my hair on fire. Rather than reacting immediately, I will breathe. I usually hold very still. If it’s really pissing me off, I will ask for a moment to gather my thoughts and walk away. When I do respond, I’ve regrouped and focused on what my goal is for that particular situation. Refocusing my energy on that outcome is helpful in taking an emotional step back. It allows me to think and decide what response will help me reach that goal.

Progress over Perfection

We have a new opportunity to get it right every single moment of every single day. Did you mess it up this morning already? No problem. You have thousands more opportunities to practice getting it right yet today. You can go back to the person to whom you reacted in a way you’d like to do differently. Talk to them. Explain. Apologize if necessary. All of these actions are in fact progress.

How will you change your response in the next conversation?


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