Why you must use context to control your triggers – Active Listening for Auditors and Everyone3 min read

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What would you say if I told you I called my girlfriend fat?

This is how I started off a recent presentation on active listening.

The response was overwhelming.

100% of the audience said that I should never in a million years say something like that to a woman.
Some called me scum of the earth. Others said I was a chauvinistic pig.
The comments came from men, women, old, young, black, white. It didn’t matter their background.
They all agreed I was scum.

My follow up question didn’t fare any better.

What if she is? I inquired.

You could see the crowd becoming more upset. I pressed on further.

What if her doctor says that she is. 

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Again the response was overwhelming. I was a jerk.

A little old lady sitting in the front row named Miss Betty said, “If I ever hear you say anything like that to a woman, I will knock your block off.”

It was at this point, I showed them the clip from the movie Money Talks. In it, James, played by Charlie Sheen, took Franklin, played by Chris Tucker, to his engagement party to meet his fiance Grace, played by Heather Locklear. James warned Franklin that Grace had issues with her weight and asked him to not say anything about it. Now if you’ve seen Heather Locklear, you know she’s far from overweight.

When they meet, James immediately calls her fat. 

Initially she was shocked by his comment.
But she didn’t do anything rash like punch him in the face. 
She didn’t curse or yell.
She waited for the context. 

He provided the context, very quickly.

FAT…PHAT. Pretty, Hot and Tempting.

The world needs more people like Grace. Civility and self control are awesome traits. By controlling her trigger, she obtained the context for the conversation and avoided getting mad for no reason.

People who can’t control their triggers fire verbal venom haphazardly.  And while it may seem satisfying to get things off your chest, in the end, this behavior erodes relationships. 

I mean think about it. No one wants to be around someone who’s constantly overreacting to everything. 

So here are three things that you can do when you feel like you’re about to be triggered. 

First, just to shut up. It’s just that simple.  Shut your mouth. Don’t overreact. Be more like Grace.  As a matter of fact, have some Grace. 

Second, seek clarity.  Are you absolutely certain about what the person is trying to communicate to you?  Probably not. Seek clarity. 

Once you have clarity, seek context for the conversation.  Are there circumstances surrounding what the person is saying that provides a clear picture to the conversation at hand? 

The lack of trigger control is a losing proposition for everyone.  At the end of the day, no one can trigger you.  You are responsible for your reactions to your environment. 

The next time you’re dealing with a difficult client, think before you’re triggered.

Robert Berry (103)

Robert (That Audit Guy) Berry is a risk, compliance and auditing advocate, educator and innovator. He helps good professionals become better by creating articles, web services and training that allow them to expand their knowledge network.

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