Reactivity is neither good nor bad, its just a sharp emotional signal that is hardwired into our way of being. Its purpose is to bring our attention to what's going on. What I do when I experience this energy is what determines its outcome: constructive or destructive. The constructive outcome requires curiosity. I must ask myself: Why am I experiencing this much angst? What's the message? Many people choose not to be curious. They frequently blow up in a blink of an eye and become quite destructive.
My interpretation of external events are what trigger the rise: a realization / denial that I am a certain way, boundaries being crossed, etc can lead to sudden bursts of reactive energy. Each one of us has our own personal repertoire of reactive hot buttons. Taking the time to become cognizant and curious about them will lead to a more grounded and engaged life. From this place I am also able to be more effectively engaged with my audience.
Below are just a few of the common areas where the rise maybe experienced in your campaign:
- Blind spots
- Last word
Blind spots can be quite enlightening. I remember being asked what two things I saw that irritated me about the City Manager. The answers were easy:
- Controlling nature
- Rebellious way of doing things
Then I was asked what parts of these behaviors did I have? I have both. Knowing that is important. A principal idea in Psychology 101 is that “I hate in others what I can't stand in myself”. In being aware of my own problems with control and rebelliousness, I can choose to be effective instead of reacting.
Becoming aware of these aspects of my Self enhances my ability to present information. If I were to continue being blind to these pieces, blame and finger pointing when I speak and write would be likely. The audience will pick up the in-congruity in a heart beat, and disconnect.
What are the two top things that irritate you about your City Manager? How do these things show up in your life?
If you aren't certain they show up in your life, you could always ask a friend for some no nonsense feedback. My friends would have told you they knew years before my epiphany about control and rebelliousness in me.
Boundaries being crossed can bring out the nastiest side of us. City Hall allowing Banks to damage neighborhoods unchallenged is going to highly charge people. Many people will experience explosive anger. A common response is to blame (act out) instead of engagement (act on).
Acting on vs acting out is an important distinction to know about reactive rises. If you act on anger's message, it can be a useful guide. It will help define your boundaries. It will enable you to do and say what is most effective in that moment.
Awareness of boundary issues is nothing more than experiencing the rise, taking a deep breath and making a choice to engage.
The last word is an arena where reactivity occurs frequently. It often has an I am right, and you are wrong (stupid) quality. Things can become quite charged in this environment.
Instead of the judgment terms: right and wrong, I propose that agree or disagree be used. This shift in perspective allows the other person's viewpoint to be seen without summarily dismissing it.
Viewing it this way isn't the dismissive, “yeah right, whatever” response. It is actually looking at how they came to their conclusion. All of us were raised and schooled differently. We were taught to view the world in certain ways.
As adults, we can examine the empirical truths we were taught growing up. Are these beliefs and views still serving me? The last word is a great place to start this examination. If there are still points you believe should be considered, dialogue is a way to expand the conversation. It is engagement, without the reactivity.
In a campaign like this, the last word is a dangerous ground to claim. The community are the ones who will be deciding the merits of your case. When confronted by a reactive response from the City; I always chose to yield and let them have the last word. I believe their reactivity helped underscore the merits of my case.
Reactive rises still happen in me, I just act out less often. I frequently use the rise to fuel my Bullshimeter when things are not quite as they seem. The rise is telling me I need to know more. This leads to dialogue, and being a better presenter too.