This distinction became clearer for me during a coaching session this week. It occurred to me that my client always seems to correlate his behaviours with what people do. It's always someone's fault - if only things weren't so stressfull, if only people would do what he wanted them to, if only he weren't under so much pressure from his clients... he wouldn't be so aggressive and intimidating. He also has made it quite clear that he can turn off his aggressive behaviour style when he is with certain people, but it comes out full swing with others. So I had to ask: "Do you believe that other people are responsible for what you do?"
I gave him this as homework to think about... What you do is not a function of people or situations around you; what you do is a function of your choice. You may be like a gun, with triggers that can set you off, but the twist is that you are a human being - not an inanimate object. You cannot be manipulated into firing, unless you allow yourself to be. You ultimately make the choice to be aggressive, to be threatening, or to be intimidating, just as much as you make the choice to be nice, passive, or to "kiss butt". Very often people make these choices unconsciously or automatically - they do not realize that they are in control. A large part of the Anger Solutions program is to wake people up to the realization that they are in control of what they think, do, or say - even when their hot buttons are being pushed.
So the next time someone or something pushes your buttons - remember, you are a gun with a twist. You can make a choice about how you respond based on the following factors:
- what is really happening
- what it means to you now and what it will mean in the future
- what kind of outcome you would like to see come from this event (e.g. do you want to go to jail for assault or would you like to resolve the situation assertively?)
- how important is the person (or the people) involved in this situation, and how would your like your relationship to progress from this point? Your choice of behaviour will determine where it goes from here.
Remember this the next time you decide to fire at will. Guns kill people. People kill people too. You are both a gun AND a person with the power of choice. Choose wisely.