By Julie Standfield
As a coach and facilitator, I regularly listen to clients telling me about how angry, or upset, or irritated (insert a strong emotion of your choice) that someone has made them. My role is to listen, to supportively challenge them to consider their reaction and to help them work out their next step. It’s a rare and privileged position to be in; to have someone open up to you about an embarrassing, humiliating or stressful situation, and trust you not to judge, not to tell them how to fix things, but just to listen and give them the space to get it all off their chests.
One thing I always try to do, is to challenge a sentence such as ‘he just makes me so angry’. My challenge is gentle and simple; I ask ‘He makes you angry?’. ‘How does he make you do that, exactly?’.
Most people have an immediate come-back, and tell me what he did and said. I simply repeat the question, and make the point that they are attributing a huge amount of power to the perpetrator. Most people understand what I am actually asking them on the second asking.
My point is, nobody has the power to make you do anything – they will certainly ‘hook’ you, invite you to respond with an unhealthy or unproductive behaviour by behaving in a way that invites such a response, but you are ultimately in control of how you respond. You choose your response. Once we understand that we control our responses (we choose to be angry, upset or irritated) it frees us to make a different choice, a healthier choice, a more adult choice. Our ‘normal’ response is just a habit – it may be a habit that has been in place for a lot of years, but like any habit, it can be broken, with a bit of support and a lot of effort.
I wonder what choices we could all make instead, and what it would feel like to take back that attributed power?