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  • Rosanne Bostonian

Being Your Best Self

Reacting to conflict

It’s hard to be your best self when others behave badly. In fact, we use disappointment in other people to excuse our own bad behavior. I call that being “reactive” rather than being “responsive.”

If your house was on fire you would dial 9-1-1. You wouldn’t pour gasoline on the flames. We don’t seem to use the same approach when someone in our lives is behaving badly. Instead, we feel righteous indignation and create a protective boundary with anger. If we don’t do that out loud, we certainly go snarky in our own thoughts or in our body language.

Being responsive is putting some space around a volatile situation. Sometimes this literally means walking away and smoothing out our own internal feathers before making a bad situation worse. This means being mindful, conscious of the effects of our own actions.

When we’re hurt the body goes into “fight or flight” mode. Anger is a primitive response. We can do better than that because evolution has plopped a great big cerebrum on top of the instinctive portions of the brain. If we choose not to use it, there will be remorse and the need for restitution. “One angry word undoes a thousand good deeds,” or so the ancient pundits said.

Since the ratio of 1000 to 1 is pretty rough, I vote for containing reactivity when we can. The “best self” has compassion, empathy and humility. It makes allowances for another person’s bad moment. If we’re able to do that for others, maybe we’ll receive the same generosity in return.

With love, Rosanne

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