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Stepping Back to Move Forward

by Leslie Webb ASEBP | April 7 2021

Have you ever experienced an event or conversation that rubs you the wrong way?

But it isn’t the event or conversation itself that bothers you. What irritates you is your hasty reaction, which doesn’t seem appropriate for the given situation. You don’t know why, but you do know that something has irked you and you’re not okay with how you’ve responded.

I know this has happened to me! And when it does, I need to step back and ask myself: What’s going on? What is it about this situation that evoked such a strong response?

To get a sense of what transpired, I step back and have a conversation with… myself!

I gradually pull back the layers to get to the root of the situation so I can reset and do better next time. To do this, I step back and use the following four steps to help me move forward:

What are the facts: What are the details of the event or interaction? What did I see? What was said or written? Try to be objective and stick to the undisputable facts and details. Use the 5W’s of discovery to help you uncover the evidence.

How did I react: What was my response? How did I feel? What was my reaction? What was my physical reaction? What did I like or dislike? Have I responded like this in other situations? Use your five senses, your emotional response, and any reactions you might have in similar situations, to guide you through this step.

What does this mean: What is the significance of the event? Why is this interaction important to me? What was actually said—not just what I interpreted—and what was the intention of the communication? And finally, and perhaps most importantly, what can I learn?

Now that you’ve separated the facts from your reaction, it’s time to put your emotions and biases aside and look at the situation using your critical thinking skills. Stepping out of your shoes and putting on your detective hat will help you work through this step.

How will I respond: What can I do? What should I do? What will I do? Now that you have pulled back the layers and looked at the situation with a critical and objective lens, it’s time to learn, adjust and move forward. To do so, you might say, “Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I would like to change my response.” Looking forward, you can use what you learned and apply it to similar situations you may encounter. We don’t have a delete key, but we do have it within ourselves to go back and hit refresh.

When you respond to something in a visceral way there is often a reason behind it. Being passionate and caring is a good thing but when our reactions are obscured by our feelings and emotions, we may not respond in a manner that leads to the best results.

Stepping back and separating the facts from your emotions, will help to uncover why you reacted the way you did so you can move forward in a proactive and productive way.

We may not have control over every situation, but we do have control over how we react and the actions we take, even if it may take a little while to get it right!

Leslie Webb

With a career focused on addiction, mental health and health promotion, Leslie, one of ASEBP’s workplace wellness consultants, is always on the hunt for wellness ideas—and chocolate! Is it at the end of a rainbow, like a pot of gold? She may not know that answer, but she could tell you exactly where any of your misplaced things have gone. Just don’t ask her to grab them off the top shelf for you. That’s what ladders are for, right, Leslie?