Qualities of a Leader When Responding to Difficult Situations

It had been a pretty good day thus far and I was moving from one “To do” item to the next. I reached for my cell phone to check email and the message I had been dreading came in. You know those moments when your heart sinks to the pit of your stomach and you get a sick feeling? That was it.

The email I received was one that required me to follow through with a responsibility that I did not want to execute. I wanted nothing to do with it. So much so that I nearly wrote back that I had changed my mind and wouldn’t be able to accommodate the request. The message in my head was laced with bitterness and frustration. I quickly deleted the email and gave myself 24 hours before responding.

One of the most valuable lessons we can learn is how to avoid responding out of emotion and instead respond with intention. Emotional responses feel good in the moment because we say what we truly think at the time. When something strikes so deeply at our core, the tact and control we typically engage departs and we become terribly honest about how we really feel in the moment.

It’s healthy to be real with our emotions.

It’s unhealthy to respond with our emotions.

Though strategies to counter a desire to immediately respond with the full force of our emotions can vary, the end goal should be the same: respond with intentionality.

As you continue to do life in the midst of difficult relationships, issues, customers or whatever else, find an outlet where you can be real with your emotions. Finding that outlet and using it can be the first step toward responding with intentionality. Once we deal with our emotions, we can then process with the knowledge of how our heart feels with the intentionality of what our brain thinks.

For me, I took 24 hours to choose to respond after I thought through the immediate and the future implications of my reactions. What is it for you?

Your Turn

Go ahead and leave a quick comment sharing how long you need to give yourself to process and respond. Twenty-four minutes? Twenty-four hours? More?

4 replies
  1. Beth Jensen
    Beth Jensen says:

    Depends on the issue: with family & friends, at least 24 hours does the trick. Great article, Dave, and a great reminder to not always lead with the heart!! 🙂 I miss chatting with you.

  2. Diane Markins
    Diane Markins says:

    Such wisdom Dave. I’ve had my share of “responding with emotion” instantly and regretted it later. Sometimes the person was so deserving of my wrath, but sadly (years ago) my kids had to witness me chewing some sales clerk out for being rude or giving bad service. Oh, the things we wish we could get do-overs for! If we could all apply your suggestion of 24 hours there would be a lot less stress and lingering anger (not to mention regret and shame) all around.

  3. Kayli Barth
    Kayli Barth says:

    This is brilliant Dave, and perfect timing for me. I’ve been dealing with an uncomfortable situation lately – or rather, not dealing with it. It is taking every ounce of my being to not respond out of emotion but it leads to me just not responding at all. Your point about responding with intention really resonated, and I will be trying to put that into practice asap.

    • Dave Shrein
      Dave Shrein says:

      Kayli, Thank you for sharing!!!! I am so glad that part hit home… Don’t be a stranger! Love hearing your words of wisdom and celebrating wins with you!

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