A friend recently said to us, “I am learning to have fewer reactive conversations and more frequent creative conversations.” What simple advice! The question arises, when we go reactive, how do we shift to a creative conversation and embody the TED* roles of Creator, Challenger and Coach?
We recommend hitting the pause button to lengthen the time between getting triggered and reacting. A pause, for even a few seconds, reduces our need to respond to the perceived threat, and helps bring clarity to the moment.
Remember the sage advice to count to ten if we get angry? By counting to ten the reactive part of the brain calms. During this pause, the stories we make up that triggered our reactivity can be reinterpreted.
Donna recently had an opportunity to practice hitting the pause button. After a long day of travel, David was ready to go to bed and Donna wanted to talk.
David said: “I am really tired, honey, and would like to turn in now.”
Donna wanted to share a story that had happened earlier in the day. When David said he wanted to go to bed, she felt a knot in her gut and heard a whisper: “He doesn’t want to listen. Maybe he doesn’t value me.”
When Donna hit the pause button, she heard possible new interpretations of David’s desire to turn in early and her responses to them:
- She could laugh at how ridiculous it sounds that David doesn’t value her;
- She could say good night and share the story in the morning;
- She could realize that his fatigue has nothing to do with her.
Once Donna paused, she had the freedom to choose rather than force a reactive conversation.
American psychologist Rollo May said: “Freedom is in the capacity to pause between stimulus and response.” After pausing, Donna did not feel victimized or persecuted by David’s desire to turn in early. What freedom!
Pausing builds our capacity to handle the fear and reactivity that arises. At any moment we can get triggered and take on the roles of the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™ of Victim, Persecutor or Rescuer. Each of these roles may spark reactive conversations.
By hitting the pause button, powerful new options arise that support the shift from the DDT to TED* roles of Creator, Challenger and Coach. It is in how we relate to others that we can witness the positive approach that TED* brings to our relationships as we co-create with the people in our lives.