Imagine this, you are working with team members on a project. You are discussing with each other how best to get a certain part of the project done. Their ideas are very different to your ideas. You are beginning to become annoyed and stressed. Things aren’t going the way you want.

What would you do in that situation?

What’s your reactive style?

You may be familiar with the ideas of fight and flight response. The ideas of a freeze and fawn response are now also often talked about. These are basic defensive styles that have evolved from our instinctive survival reactions to real dangers and perceived threats.

They can serve us well in the presence of real danger and threats. However, our perception of a situation can trigger us to use them at times when they are not needed or to use them in unhelpful ways. We can also develop the habit of using them when we are in situations that simply make us feel uncomfortable or stressed.

Each of us will tend to have our typical defensive or reactive style, for example:

Freeze: to withdraw and become inactive by avoiding, hiding, or ignoring.

‘Let’s just forget about it. We’ll sort it out later.’

Flight: to withdraw and become active by panicking, worrying or being perfectionistic.

‘Just leave it to me. I’ll sort it.’

Fawn: to connect and become inactive by surrendering, agreeing or appeasing.

‘OK, that’s fine. Let’s just do it your way.’

Fight: to connect actively by being aggressive, controlling, or demanding.

‘You’re wrong. I’m right. We’re doing it my way.’

The problem with each of those reactive styles is that they can limit our ability to productively solve problems with our colleagues.

How to move from reacting to responding

The key to being responsive rather that reactive, is to shift our focus.

Research has shown that when people see uncomfortable or stressful situations as a challenge, rather than a threat, their ability to handle those situations improves.

The next time you find yourself annoyed and stressed with the way something is going, pause and shift your focus. See the situation as a challenge and think about how you can use the knowledge and skills you have to meet the challenge. Shift from reaction to responding as a productive problem-solver.

Here’s a chance to see what others are doing and thinking.

We’ve picked out the results that will help you make comparisons with your own thinking and your organisation’s priorities for training.

Michael Brown

Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

He is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

Alana Billingham

Alana is a director and senior trainer with Skillset, based in Wellington.

She takes workshops on a wide range of topics and is at the leading edge in the world in teaching investigative interviewing.

Some of her negotiation clients negotiate multi-million dollar deals. Others just need to sort out arrangements with their suppliers.

Alana has attended a master class on investigative interviewing the UK and keeps in touch with her classmates.

Dharan Longley, Senior Trainer, Skillset

Dharan is an international master trainer with post-graduate qualifications in adult education.

His assignments have included training police officers and university managers in the Middle East, as well as teachers and staff of large organisations in New Zealand.

Dharan's topics are 'effective meetings', 'problem-solving and decision-making', 'team development', 'training for trainers' and 'customer service'. He particularly enjoys helping people with diverse points of view agree on practical solutions.

Dharan is based in Wellington. On windy days he loves riding waves and attempting to fly.

Roydon Gibbs, Trainer, Skillset New Zealand

Roydon specialises in engagement - how to ensure that your staff enjoy coming to work, are at their most productive, speak well of your organisation after hours - and stay.

He has been training for more than 15 years. His knowledge of engagement comes from the research and his experience working with a wide range of organisations.

Roydon holds qualifications in adult teaching and learning. He is a professional member of the New Zealand Association for Training and Development and an accredited member of the National Speakers Association.

Andrew Jack

Andrew Jack is Skillset's social media commentator.

Being Generation Y has helped ensure that social media is a big part of his life. He's an experienced blogger, builder of websites and an aspiring author.

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