Last week I spoke about why choice is important as a means to stepping into your personal power. This week let us get clear about the definition of choice.
Acting without choice means we are operating on an automatic pilot mode in our behaviour, feelings and thinking strategies.
For example, imagine a person who finds social events uncomfortable and challenging. If they are invited to a party their first response may be to decline the invitation. Maybe they then decide to attend but at the last minute they pull out making up a reason or just not showing up. Or they do attend but on arrival they avoid eye contact with others and if approached give short answers to questions or alternatively go into “babble” mode. As a result they may find that people seem to want to get away from them. This then reinforces their “map of the world” around social gatherings.
We could call this having a “knee jerk reaction.”
When we create choice in our lives we are actively seeking out alternative ways of responding. Having identified these alternatives we might decide to consciously change our behaviour by learning new strategies.
Another approach would be to take action to create new, more helpful automatic responses on an unconscious level using an intervention set such as NLP.
Either way we need to start by increasing our level of self awareness. This includes recognising where we are behaving as if choice is absent. Any situation where we say to ourselves “I have no choice” I recommend that you consider challenging that thought process.
Peter Honey in his book “Problem People and How to manage them” came up with an interesting model which I have adapted. In this book he suggested that when faced with a “problem person” there are four alternatives we can consider.
It occurred to me that this would work for wider situations beyond interacting with others. Here are the four responses including my amended one.
- Do nothing
- Alter your perception
- Change your behaviour*
- Change the situation
In Peter Honey’s version point three was “change their behaviour”. In my opinion we can only influence the behaviour of others we can’t change it. However we can choose to change our own behaviour.
The first option of “do nothing” is an interesting one. There are times in life when doing nothing is a good option simply because the issue is isolated and not likely to recur. However often “doing nothing” just gives a signal that we are okay with what happened. So in most cases doing nothing can be unhelpful.
If you consciously choose to do nothing however you may feel empowered. For example, imagine a shop assistant has been rude to you and your normal way of reacting would be to become irritated and to carry that feeling around with you for several hours.
Choosing to do nothing would be to let go of the situation straight away, which is actually doing something. We could go further and alter our perception, or change our behaviour by giving assertive feedback or choose to shop elsewhere in future.
We will delve further into changing our perception and behaviour in coming weeks. What do you think of these four options. Do they work for you?