Throughout life you will encounter a range of events that will generate emotion in you. Some of these will be pleasant and others not. Some will be of your own design and others will just happen. Happy or sad, the one thing that we are able to truly manage is our reaction to these situations.
When something bad happens in your life, you may not have the ability to directly influence it. You do however have the ability to control how you react to it.
With the exception of the most extreme situations there is normally little to be gained by reacting with emotion before first stopping, however briefly, to evaluate. Emotions are what make us human, it is our reaction to them that defines us as a person.
You may not chose the things that happen to you in life but you can chose how you react and respond to them. This is particularly true for negative situations.
Often our first reaction to a situation is guided by an instinct of self-preservation. Adrenaline kicks in and we react before thinking. This is a hangover from times where we lived in caves and had to worry about large things running up and trying to eat us.
These times are long gone and to truly embrace our potential, we all need to change this approach. You should be guided more by analysis and thought than by instinct.
There are always choices
One of the best things about being a human being is that you have choices. Often more choices than people realize. There are some choices that are simple to recognize because they have an obvious impact on an outcome. Things like what to do on the weekend are an example.
You also have a huge number of less obvious choices being made each day. The choice to stay in a job or to not move house are things that you have ultimate influence over and choose control by taking no action.
You also have the choice of how to think, feel and act in all parts of your life. If someone cuts you off in traffic, you have the choice to let that make you angry or just accept that it happened. If someone is rude or disrespectful, you control how you respond.
Often a sense of pride or ego takes over in negative situations and our first reaction is to try and save face or to respond negatively. It takes a much greater level of enlightened thinking to instead accept frustration or disappointment and address the situation logically.
I had a boss a few years ago that had a great saying. He would say “play the ball, not the man”. The meaning behind this was to highlight that the outcome will be much better if you take personal opinion and emotion out of a situation and address the actual issue.
Quite often, responding in any other way has the potential to the opposite effect and coming across looking like a victim. It is a much stronger position to accept control of the situation and let the other person look unreasonable. This is even truer if the person continues acting improperly while you maintain a cool and logical approach.
Even if a situation is not ideal, it is better to walk away knowing that you managed it as well as possible than stewing about how you could retaliate.
It could just be a matter of perspective
In many situations you will find that people don’t set out to be deliberately difficult or rude. It is often the case that they just have an alternative view or different set of information. At the very most, it is often the case that they might just have ideals that are different from yours.
If this is the case, would it not be just as inappropriate to assume that for some reason your perspective is the correct one?
The next time that something that is less than ideal happens to you, spend a few moments to think about the situation before reacting. You may find that this is enough time to realize that any reaction would have been inappropriate. Even if not, reacting in a negative way to most situations is only going to make it worse. It is often far better to know that you were in control than to throw fuel onto the fire.