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 a perfectionist.
‘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 respondingThe key to being responsive rather than 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.