A participant in Humanergy’s supervisory leadership courses asked a great question. He’d just learned about Stop, Think and Choose as a tool to make good choices. But how do you stop yourself from reacting when someone or something pushes your buttons? 

Creating the space between a stimulus and your response is one of the most difficult skills to develop. There are two main challenges:

1. Anticipating your triggers
2. Doing something about it

The knowing step requires you to get in tune with your body. Take a moment to think about a challenging situation that makes you want to react – your worst day or a difficult employee. When you do this, you will feel your body reacting. Tune into this carefully. Do you begin to feel warm? Does your neck redden? Do you feel your pulse rising? Do your muscles tense? Whatever happens is a trigger. The more you are tuned into this, the easier it is to insert the STOP.

Stopping your default reaction is also unique to the individual. For me, it’s a deep breath or sometimes a quick break to get my notepad and a pen. My wife cups one hand in the other to remind her to receive whatever is coming. These small things create the space so we can THINK about the leader we want to be and then CHOOSE the most appropriate behavior.

For a really challenging situation, the STOP may be to reschedule to the following day. Don’t be afraid of telling people you want to be focused on them and their issue and that, at this moment, you are otherwise distracted. If you postpone, make sure you are true to your word and have the necessary conversation as soon as possible.

Get in touch with your body’s reaction to stress and conflict, and you’ll be more aware of what you need to do to react appropriately. Don’t think you have time to do this? Remember, every choice comes with consequences, so you want to make sure you’re willing to live with yours.