A while back I read or heard a perspective on the three approaches that we choose from when responding to things that are emotion-filled, uncertain or scary. These were described as
- turning away – ignoring it or simply not responding at all
- turning against – having an aggressive or defensive reaction
- turning toward – opening yourself up to become a part of it in a constructive way, with a genuine curiosity about the situation and optimism about potential outcomes
Depending on the situation and specific circumstances, and the story we tell ourselves about “what is going on here”, we will choose one of the above. I am not sure that one is easier than the other, but I do believe that each of us has a predilection to select one of these most often.
In my wonderings about why people choose to turn away, I come up with a bunch of thoughts – maybe this is too scary for them; they have a belief that things will resolve over time without their involvement; they have no idea where to start to be helpful. Maybe they think that a playbook exists – something that describes the ‘right’ steps to take – and they are sure they don’t have it.
For those who choose to turn against, my sense is that insecurity and need for certainty prevent them from being curious, which is an absolute prerequisite to having the kind of constructive conversations that need to occur in order to resolve difficult issues.
All of us know those people who regularly choose the last one – turning toward. These folks are quick to get involved when things aren’t working well or when something needs to get done, and as a result, gain a bit of a reputation as people who ‘can be counted on’ to do just that. If you inquire with them as to why they behave this way, what you’ll often find is that they have developed a belief that their involvement will make things better for someone. What you won’t hear is that they think it is easy. And you REALLY won’t hear them say they do it because they have a map that describes the best path toward resolution. They will often tell you they move forward in spite of the fact that they don’t even know what THE FIRST STEP is, but assume they will learn things along the way that allow them to put one foot in front of the other.
What is your default move? Is it serving you and those you care about in the best way possible?