I should’ve never picked up the phone.
I hadn’t slept well the night before and was working hard to catch up from being out for a few days at the National Speakers Association conference with Darcy. I saw my building manager’s number pop up on my cell and answered the phone thinking I could talk to him while finishing the email I was writing.
Then I heard the words, “Someone hit your car in the parking lot.”
In my sleep-deprived state of frustration, I snapped at the building manager.
A moment later I was able to access that Pause button. I wanted to rewind the tape and start over. He didn’t hit my car. He was kind enough to call and let me know. So I apologized, took a breath, and asked, “I’m sorry I overreacted. Can we take a minute here and start this call over?”
How We Respond Matters
In Thoughtfully Fit, Agility is the practice that focuses on our ability to respond, instead of react, to those moments that blindside us.
We can’t control everything, or really much at all, that happens in our lives. But we do control how we respond. Agility is tough to practice because we can’t plan for a blindside the way we can plan for a Balanced conversation or time for Stillness. They call it a blindside for a reason! However, the faster we recognize we’ve been blindsided, the faster we can choose to practice Agility.
In my life, I get to practice Agility when I find that Cosmo (the white dog pictured above) has left a mess on the living room floor.
The first few times I found the little brown present, I would shout at Cosmo. Do you realize the carpet is not the place for that? Why didn’t you say something? Why didn’t you do your business when we were just outside?
Truth be told, Cosmo’s reaction to my yelling at him wasn’t much different than the reaction of my poor building manager after that first minute of our phone call.
Blindsides (including small brown ones) can be stress-inducing, but hollering at poor Cosmo out of anger won’t make cleaning up the mess any faster or easier. When I practice Agility, though, I can recognize when I’m reacting in an ineffective way and shift to respond effectively instead.
Stay In Control by Calling a Timeout
When dealing with people or pups, it can be difficult not to react out of frustration when you’re caught off guard or someone drops a deuce in the middle of a conversation. Regardless of what others do though, you always get to choose what you do next.
Approaching our challenges with our initial reactions will keep us from responding thoughtfully and intentionally. That’s why calling a timeout can be a valuable step to handling our challenges with Agility. Let the other person know that you need a moment, or five minutes, or maybe the day… before you respond. Different situations may limit the amount of time you have for that timeout but even taking a minute can help everyone reset and maybe prevent the situation from getting worse in the heat of the moment.
You can’t control what other people do during that timeout, but you can choose to engage your core. Take the time to Pause. Think. Act. so you can override your default, emotionally charged reaction. You can make thoughtful choices to help clean up the mess and repair the relationship.
One-Minute Core Workout
Pause. The next time you come in contact with someone dropping a pile of, well, something unexpected in front of you, Pause.
Think. Ask some thoughtful questions: What choices do I have, right now? What’s most important at this moment? What on Earth has Cosmo been eating? (Ok, that last one might just be for me.)
Act. Practice Agility and respond effectively.
Practicing Agility when people throw the unexpected at us can make life’s hurdles feel easier. Give it practice and patience. Need more practice? There are lots of adoptable dogs just looking to help a human practice their Agility. 😉
Let’s acknowledge that our brains are designed to react and part of practicing Agility is learning to override some of our evolutionary fight or flight reactions. It might feel impossible, but there is plenty of neuroscience research that shows we can rewire our brain to have more effective responses. DLCC team member, Jill Mueller, is a fan of Rick Hanson’s Hardwiring Happiness. It offers ideas on how you can create new grooves in order to create a new normal (leading to fewer knee-jerk reactions!)