Reacting vs responding – how to keep your side of the street clean

Do you ever have one of those weeks:
– when everyone seems to want to get a rise out of you?
– you should have saved yourself the effort and stayed in bed all day?
– conversations are littered minefields you can’t evade?
This week, I’ve been stress eating, my skin is one big flare up, and I’ve barely been sleeping.
Whatever is going on in my life is not an excuse for how I’m feeling, and especially not for how I’m acting.
So how do we stop ourselves from merely reacting, and instead respond?

“The possibilities are numerous once
we decide to act and not react.
– George Bernard Shaw

Once we feel pushed into a corner, we often feel forced to choose between A and B.
That’s still reacting – we have put shutters on and thinking inside a box.
When someone insults us, we do not have to defend ourselves or get angry.
We don’t have to be kind – but the point is, while our pride gets triggered, it doesn’t have to morph into defending our ego. People are sick after all.
We can choose to understand that they are lashing out because of pain, and go on about our day.

It’s fine to hope for a certain outcome,
but once we are expecting it we are setting
ourselves up for disappointment.
Can we accept people however they act?

I’ve spoken about active listening in my post about apologies, but the tips hold even when you are hoping for one.
Are we truly listening to their words? Their intentions, their stories?
I don’t believe anyone truly is ‘mean’ or ‘evil’, we inflict suffering when we are feeling it.
So instead of letting my first instincts reign supreme, i try to distance myself.
Physically and mentally, I let go.
Often I write a letter I never send (or heavily redacted), I speak to friends, I journal.

So when I next to speak to people
I’m not just dumping my emotional reactions,
I have space to listen and actively communicate.

“But how do I not become a doormat?” I asked when first learning this lesson.
“Boundaries!” said my friend.
I ended up writing a whole post about it.
The truth is, as sick as we believe other people are, we are probably just as bad.
We are however very familiar with our excuses!
Whatever we are struggling with (for me it’s expectations and boundaries as you can tell),
they will trickle out in conversations.
So it’s all the more important to be mindful and aware when interacting with others.
But after this week is over, I will spend an entire day in bed and just decompress from people!

“Life is 10% what happens to you
and 90% how you react to it.”
– Charles R. Swindoll

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