One of the most powerful distinctions I have come across that allows us to reframe almost any situation is the difference between creating versus reacting.
The principle fits in well with a favourite quote of mine by Viktor Frankl:
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and happiness”
Create, don't React
Creating, as opposed to reacting, is the decision to hold back your response and work out what you want out of the situation and how you can best respond to make this happen.
The crux is working out what the other person’s ideal outcome would be in the situation and seeing if you can balance both of these with a creative solution.
If you receive an unpleasant email that leaves you feeling angry or upset, you may want to take a step back before replying. Now, this is common advice – never reply to an email in anger – but the creating element is not just about waiting until you feel less angry, you must also put some time into thinking about your ideal outcome. Think big – go beyond just the email and think about the ideal overall outcome for everyone involved.
HERE'S A SPECIFIC EXAMPLE THAT YOU MIGHT RELATE TO:
If two people have a disagreement on how to deal with a situation. For example, a student turning up late for an exam. One thinks they should be let in, the other that they should not be. When we disagree with someone, there is a tendency to lash out with our reasons but this is more of a reaction than a creation. We are not creating, we are justifying. In order to create we need to take a step back and evaluate.
To create in this situation, we might ask the following questions:
What would the ideal solution be if this was sorted?
The student takes the exam at another time and learns the lesson that they need to turn up on time. Relations between two colleagues stay amicable.
What was the other teacher’s intention when they reacted?
The other teacher was most likely looking out for the student and knows the importance of them doing the exam.
What was the reason the first teacher reacted to the email?
They felt that the colleague questioning their decision was unfair and unsupportive and in parts, incorrect.
Does any of this sound familiar?
I’ve certainly been in situations similar to this where a situation has escalated because people were reacting and not thinking about what they wanted to create.
Both teachers probably want the ideal solution outlined above – but when emotions take over, we react instead of creating. Either teacher could have stopped the disagreement - it is not necessary for both to be on board. Which means if you find yourself in a situation like this, where you may normally be inclined to react, or where the other person has, then consider taking a moment and working through these questions:
This is not always easy to do, but focusing on creating your ideal outcome before responding to a situation can make a real difference to improving professional relationships, reducing stress and actually getting your desired response.
As ever, let me know how this goes in the comments below – I hope you are able to transform a few situations with this perspective.
Clare Martin is a the founder of the Positive Teacher Network who specialises in helping teachers to find the ultimate Work Life Balance and supports them with many of the difficulties teachers face today.
The Positive Teacher Network provides practical tips and strategies to busy, tired teachers to help them improve their lives allowing them to focus on being great teachers.