26 Jan '11
Avoiding the impulsive trap
Wise leaders avoid the trap of acting impulsively – on the spur of the moment - out of emotion or anxiety. Rather, they train themselves to respond to people and situations with circumspection.
Think of the emails you have sent that you wish in retrospect you could take back. I’ve both sent my share and received my share where I ask the question, “What were they thinking when they sent that?” Words spoken, actions taken and emails sent cannot be taken back and those that are done impulsively are often those we wish we could take back.
Our own anxiety often plays into acting impulsively. When we are faced with a situation that makes us anxious, that anxiety pushes us to “fix the issue” quickly. A wiser course of action is to learn to control our anxiety, take time to think through the issue, seek wise counsel from others and wait until we can respond out of a thoughtful response in a measured rather than emotional manner. A good rule of thumb is that the higher our anxiety the more important it is to wait before responding.
In our anxiety to “fix” situations we often forget that time is our ally. Very few issues need to be confronted immediately. In fact, time provides perspective, gives us time to think and evaluate a wise response rather than an emotional response that has less wisdom but more emotion. Waiting takes discipline and self control and both are traits that good leaders nurture.
Anxiety over situations ought to be a signal that we need to wait, to think, to seek counsel if necessary but not to respond in the moment but out of circumspect thinking.