This morning I got frustrated with my 11 year old for writing his spellings down in illegible writing – lots of things led to me forgetting everything I know about learning, dyspraxia, ADD, my own child, how to have a happy morning, basic parenting skills – those things were: leaving things too late, worry about getting all my own tasks done before a deadline, another child talking over me so I couldn’t concentrate myself and then I snapped – raising my voice – saying “you know how to do this, you just can’t be bothered” and breaking every rule I have about speaking to my child and supporting him with writing – I had got into drama and it wasn’t necessary, it wasn’t true and it wasn’t helpful and it will take longer to clean up and repair the mess I made than it would have been to notice my state, move away from the child and come at it after a couple of deep breaths.

So many of our conversations, conflicts and stresses revolve around drama – believing someone is doing something deliberately, blaming someone else, being criticised unfairly, feeling desolate, doing someone else’s job for them, doing more than our fair share etc etc.

Before we can resolve our issues it’s really beneficial to unpack the drama – what’s actually happening? – what are we making up? – What are other people making up? what would we like to have happen? what needs to happen now? Even if we can’t get someone else to leave the drama, can we get ourselves out of it. Drama is addictive, it limits alternative stories, stops us listening to anything that doesn’t back up our drama-story – Getting off the drama triangle and getting into a different mind-set is a skill everyone could do with developing and employing – especially me when spellings need to be done before school.

Written by Caitlin Walker

A word from Denise Chilton

Drama causes unnecessary conflict in our lives. Stopping and taking a step back can help to change the way you think about and react to drama situations you find yourself in – leading to a calmer, more stress-free life.

Let’s talk about reacting and responding. You might ask “what’s the difference” but the two are worlds apart.

Let’s take Caitlin’s example.

React: Your child is struggling with something and it’s causing you to get frustrated. You react by getting angry and raising your voice. It upsets your child but it also upsets yourself – and it hasn’t made anything better.

Response: Your child is struggling with something. You notice you are starting to feel frustrated so you pause, take a breath and consider the situation. Your first response is to praise their efforts. Your second response is to let go – they are not doing this to annoy you. Lastly, you help them by writing the spellings for your child as they read out to you what letter they think comes next.

Can you see the difference?

Most of the time we react to people and events without really thinking. It’s a gut reaction – often based on what our inner chimp has to say – remember the chimp wants you to let your fears, insecurities and irrational thoughts take over.

On the other hand, responding is about taking a step back from the immediate situation and using our perspective to decide how we want to act.

You can notice your thoughts arise and then let them go. Sometimes it takes a few seconds, sometimes a few minutes, sometimes hours or days. Other times we need to remove ourselves from the situation but the point is you can choose how you want to respond.

The choice to react or respond presents itself to us every day, whether it’s a nagging child, a rude co-worker or a husband who didn’t put his socks in the laundry basket (again). There will always be external events that annoy us but by learning to respond instead of react, we can make things better and not worse.

About Caitlin Walker

Caitlin designs and delivers tailor-made learning and development programs for addressing diversity, conflict, leadership, managing mergers and creating ‘learning organisations’. She is the architect of innovative projects that transform workplaces, classrooms and communities.

Clean Language is one of my coaching techniques and it is very effective. With Caitlin’s help, I am able to help people build up a landscape around a particular symptom using some very basic questions. It works by accepting what people say and building a question out of the responses you hear. When people start to see where, how and why a particular issue comes from, it gives up its power over them.

Coaching and mentoring gives people the opportunity to reflect on themselves in a completely unjudgmental way. Without Caitlin, I would not be where I am now.