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Respond, Don't React

Have you ever felt overwhelmed and intimidated by a difficult confrontation involving some strong over reactive emotional behaviour of someone?

It is an unfortunate reality that we have no control over events or people that come at us in life. We may find ourselves in a difficult situation where someone confronts or criticizes us in an emotionally over reactive way and displays inappropriate behaviour or attitude in our direction. We have no control over that person, but we do have control over our response.

When we are faced with a volatile confrontation we do not need to feel controlled by the emotional behaviour of the other person. We do have choices as to how we can respond, and instead of defensively being drawn into a situation we can pause and consider those choices.

Our first decision is whether the cost of engaging in this confrontational situation is worth the consequences. For example, is your life or wellbeing at risk because the person is so out of control that they may use physical violence? It is also important to take a moment to calm yourself so that your response is not emotionally overly reactive. To respond in like manner to any confrontation can escalate the situation and is unproductive.

In such situations I have found the A.C.I.D Process found in Carol Price’s program Assertive Communication Skills very helpful and I would like to explain how it works.

A.C.I.D. is an acronym that can be used to focus your thoughts and enable you to respond in an appropriate manner to the confrontation

A  ACKNOWLEDGE .

Acknowledge what the problem is. This means looking at what are the facts, what is real and cannot be changed, when the emotions are set aside.

C   COUNTER AND COMPARE

Ask yourself how will this affect the rest of my life? How important is this to the rest of my life? This brings the situation into a larger perspective

I    INTERCEPT

This stage addresses the mental self talk that occurs that can lead you down a negative path into thinking that this situation is the ‘end of the world’ and that you are a lesser being. Develop a word or phrase that you can use to intercept your mental negative tape. An example might be ‘These things happen, it’s not the end of the world, this  is only a small blip in my life’.

D  DECLARATION OF VALUE

This stage positively affirms who you are and your value as a person. An example might be ‘I am competent and am worthy of respect’

If you are dealing with criticism you need to decide are the facts valid or not valid? If the facts are valid can the criticism be changed or not? If it can’t be changed then the criticism is likely to re occur.

If the facts are valid you are faced with two options. Either accept that you made an error and be willing to learn from it, or dwell on it by either blaming yourself or someone else.

Ask yourself whether you are in better shape to accept and learn, or accept and blame.

If, on the other hand, the criticism is not valid or factual and has no real foundation your choices are different. You can refuse to accept it, let it go and not take it on. Alternatively you can choose to confront it either aggressively or assertively. If you confront aggressively the person may very well back off, but confrontation is likely to continue on a different occasion. By confronting assertively, calmly using the facts and accountability, you give back the responsibility to the criticizer. They are more likely to stop as they know you will respond by assertively using facts.

The A.C.I.D. Process is a useful a tool to use, enabling you to avoid giving a non productive strongly emotional response, and approach the situation in a calmer way. Using deep breathing and other relaxation techniques will also give you the space and ability to be able to think and respond more appropriately.

Next time you are faced with a difficult situation, stop to remember A.C.I.D. and choose to respond and not react.

By Barbara White

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Beyond Better Development

Empowering People Towards Excellence




Beyond Better Development