Dr. Steve Ingham


Between a stimulus and a response

green trees in front of window

Take a beat!

I am pretty sure that most poor behaviour can be attributed to people just reacting. In my experience, whether the team is going well, fair-to-middling or under-performing – the vast majority of unhelpful actions come from people unable, unaware or unwilling to simply pause before reacting.

As Viktor Frankl said;

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

If you are the one reacting, could you switch your reaction to something more considered, thoughtful, wise or actionable – helping the situation rather than biting?

Our physiological response to stressors is a basic flow that we can struggle to control;

– Frontal cortex receives information

– Hypothalamus lights up

– Adrenal glands kick out adrenaline

– A cascade of stress responses, blood vessels tighten, gastric system tightens, galvanic skin response, shallowing of breathing

All this shifts blood away from the pre-frontal cortex and towards the limbic / basic brain. Our IQ drops by about 10% and we react in a full or societally acceptable fight, flight or freeze fashion (assert, opt-out, concede).

This means we are producing behaviours that are not intelligent or attuned to the moment.

But if you can, as Viktor, suggests put a beat between the stimulus and the response, you will be able to arrest the adrenal fuelled poor response and be able to reset and create a more considered, intelligent and probably effective response.

How to do this well;

🥉 Bronze version: Just pause, put space between the stimulus and your response

🥈 Silver version: Take a few slow breaths as the stressor increases (I’m not going to go all guru on you but) breathing is one of the few ways that we can exert control over our sympathetic nervous system activation. Then pause and respond

🥇 Gold version: Pause, breathe and take an out of body moment to ask “What would be the best response possible to advance the situation and the teamwork?”. Then chose a response that Viktor would be proud of.

If more people were able to simply take a beat, our interactions would be full of less stress, less reactivity, more intelligent and probably more constructive teamworking.

Take a beat

Give it a go!



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