How Not to React

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How Not to React

Our brains are hardwired to react. A reaction is the automatic response driven by biases, survival and prejudices of the unconscious mind.

This sometimes works for animals in the wild (a wilder beast spies a lion and flees). Or when humans have to take fast action (pulling someone from a burning car).

Yesterday, I facilitated a training on Unconscious Bias for private college in Los Angeles. A participant shared how it’s hard to respond when she feels angry or unsafe. I agreed, and another student recommend the acronym B.A.R.

The concept of B.A.R was so intrinsically good, I wanted to share it with you too. (In the “I Get To” context, of course.)

Here goes:

I Get To… Breathe. Take a pause. Slowly inhale and exhale 3 times. Breathing begins to create a bridge from your “critter” or “reactive” brain to your “intelligent” or “responsive” brain.

I Get To… Acknowledge. Become aware of your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. Use awareness as a diagnostic tool of your current emotional and physical state.

I Get To… Respond. Consciously choose to respond.

Let’s see it in action.

Your uncle says, “All women are terrible drivers.”

Instantly, stress hormones race through your system. You become defensive and want to instantly scream, “No, you are wrong” (or other inflammatory language).

Instead you:

Take 3 breaths.

Acknowledge your anger, become aware of your physical and emotional state.

Within a few minutes to a few hours*, you chose to respond with, “I’m curious, why would you say that?” (Ensuring a “response-able” and compassionate tone.)

Question for you:

What would your life look like if you took 3 breaths before you even said a word?

*Resolving conflict “on the spot” (within a few minutes to a few hours) is important to ensure it’s resolved before it leads to resentment and disconnection from that person. Next week, I will talk about “Rocks of Resentment” – a concept learned from a good friend. See you then!

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