I love creating simple strategies individuals can use to experience less anger or stress in their lives, to improve their communications skills, resolve conflicts easier or create inner peace. From the SWaT Strategy* to TECO Magic*, The Great Duck and Dishtowel Debate* or the Seven C’s of Conflict Resolution, I find that the simpler it is, the easier it is to remember and apply. My latest, S~T~A, provides a pragmatic way to prevent any situation from becoming inflammatory and destructive. It enables both parties to discuss even the most highly sensitive topic and gain a deeper understanding of what the real issues are as well as whether their potential actions will be beneficial or not.
Imagine the following: your neighbor says something offensive or thoughtless; a coworker makes an unflattering assumption about you or accuses you of untoward behavior; your spouse breaks an important promise that leads to a breakdown of trust; your sister refuses to grant a much needed request you’ve made which causes great disappointment. In each of these scenarios, it’s easy to become hurt and lash back with a derogatory comment. In the case of the broken promise, one can become fearful that a betrayal may occur again and possibly be of a more serious nature. We can easily become frustrated with a sister who chooses to ignore our request. Hurt, fear, and frustration are all root causes of anger. And while the anger may indeed surface, what we do with it next is absolutely critical. Here’s where it’s essential to apply the S~T~A process. S~T~A stands for STOP, THINK, ASK.
STOP : first and foremost, when you find yourself becoming upset, STOP and do nothing. In this way, one protects both parties from the consequences of a reactionary response. You need to allow yourself time to think about several issues. Which brings me to step number two.
THINK – ask yourself the following questions: “How serious is this issue really? Does it warrant a response or not? Is it worthy of my time and attention? If so, how much and in what capacity? What is this person’s history? Is this behavior typical of them or could it be an isolated incident? What are their current circumstances? What could be their motive or rationale for what they said/did?” The possible answers to each of these questions provides a deeper understanding of the issue and the other party. And understanding determines future action. Our response becomes more dependent on our level of understanding.
ASK: this third and final step is critical. There are three variations to one crucial question that is essential to ask before engaging in the next course of action. Ask yourself, “Will my subsequent actions (words or behaviors) help or hurt me?” If I lash back at the other party or sever our relationship, will that help or hurt me? Then apply this query to the all those involved and to the situation. “Will my words/action help or hurt the other person(s)?” “Will they help or hurt the situation, improve it or make it worse?” If the answer to any part of any of these questions is “hurt” then you must find an alternative solution. The only (and I repeat – ONLY) valid solution is the one that helps all parties and improves the situation for everyone involved. Failure to do so will result in an escalation of hurt, fear, frustration, and ultimately anger.
Making wise choices when dealing with any emotional issue is not difficult. It means having the awareness of what is transpiring and why, and making thoughtful, considerate decisions that benefit all those involved now and in the future. Smart solutions require us to simply S~T~A for a moment before responding.
*The Secret Side of Anger
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