The last word

As I was walking lost in thought to another building recently, I failed to notice someone walking a few yards behind me. As he overtook me, he told me off for not holding the door open for him.

As I snapped out of my thoughts and processed what he said, I realized I thought his comment sounded harsh. I had phrases like “how entitled” flying around my subconscious.

So, I continued to follow him with the intention of saying something about it.

Until I didn’t.

I’ve been paying more attention to my habitual attempt to have the last word of late. It comes from my reflex to fight fire with fire.

As I pay more attention to this, I’m learning to let go and separate stimulus from response from time to time. It doesn’t always happen. But, it is at least beginning to happen more frequently than it used to.

It turns out that I do just fine without having the last word – in case you were wondering. :-)

If anything, it actually results in less time spent dwelling on such situations. And, it is resulting in an improvement in my ability to look at feedback as input (more on that another day).

It was just another reminder of “when you want to fight fire with fire, remember that the fire department uses water.”

Here’s to more of them.

Frontal assaults

When we picture wars through history, we often picture two armies clashing against each other – i.e. a frontal assault. Frontal assaults rely on raw power and lose effectiveness over time because of their predictability. I remember seeing a stat that said <5% of all wars fought involved frontal assaults.

That makes sense. Force and raw power tend to be most effective when used sparingly.

You see this all the time in interactions between parents and children. Parents who employ the frontal assault strategy may win a few battles – but, inevitably, lose the war. The dominant strategy when faced with war tends to be tact (to look for ways to avoid it if possible) and surprise.

I’ve written about my struggles with tact from time to time here. I tend to impulsively fight fire with fire – a really bad strategy in any confrontation. Luckily, parenting a 2 year old has provided a great training ground to improve my skills.

As with most things in life, making the change is not about shutting down that rush of blood when my lymbic brain senses an imminent confrontation. Instead, it is channeling that rush of blood to work on a tactful response/creating a surprising distraction.

This is no different from the principle of separating reaction from response. But, then again, principles are easier said than done. And, making them second nature requires plenty of tactical experimentation.

Here’s to that.