When we are falsely accused, hurtfully misrepresented or when an innocent remark is misconstrued, how do we remain calm?
Our immediate response tends to be toward self defence. Our brains are wired to protect ourselves. The fight and flight response recognises threat and reacts before we’ve had time to think.
A peaceful conversation turns sour as my fourteen year old daughter suddenly turns on me. ‘Why are you being so negative? She cries. ‘Mum, now you’ve made me overthink this! I shouldn’t tell you anything.’
I recoil, horrified that I have been heard that way. My intention was simply to ponder and not take the seemingly obvious at face value. What I perceived as conversation, my fourteen year old perceived as threatening.
So, what is my immediate reaction? To defend and justify myself. ‘How dare you blow up at me? I didn’t mean anything by it. You’ve completely misunderstood.’
And her response? To become more angry and irate and tell me in increasingly louder tones why I was in the wrong.
And me? I become more angry at her inability or unwillingness to see my perspective or understand the intention behind my comments.
And on and on it goes.
Misunderstanding, hurt, defensiveness and anger.
Her perspective, her understanding and her reaction stems from her fourteen years of life as she has experienced them.
And mine? From my forty-two years of life experiences.
But this is not the relationship I desire between my daughter and I, so I take control of the emotion and I focus on the calm.
‘I’m sorry’, goes a long way to calm the brewing storm. ‘I’m sorry that I’ve been misunderstood, I’m sorry that you felt threatened by my comments, I’m sorry for my anger and defensiveness.’
Perspective is everything … each conversation we hold, every message or comment we read, every song we hear, every book we read. It is all seen through the lens of our personal experience.
When we dare to lay aside our defensiveness, dare to question our own assumptions and reflect on our automatic reactions, we can then endeavour to understand another’s perspective. It is this glimpse into an alternate understanding that has the power to transform a volatile situation into one of calm.
Calm is a choice. It is a choice to lower our defences, take hold of our emotional reactions and choose to respond with wisdom and grace.
How might you choose calm today?