I have a confession: my co-workers have a remarkable capacity to trigger me.

I mean, it’s only natural that the people closest to me, who I spend the vast majority of my days alongside would know all the buttons to press, right?

What’s puzzling though is how knowledgeable they are of these buttons prior to the sharing of any emotional response. This must mean that either (a) they are ill-intentioned genius manipulators or (b) they aren’t actually out to get me, I’m just being reactive.

Against my own monkey-mind’s desire to blame others, I’m going to fess up: it’s me.

Victor Frenkel, Holocaust survivor and the author of “Man’s search for meaning”, stated it succinctly:

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to chose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

This quote stood out to me as I listened to Lori Gottlieb’s audiobook version of, “Maybe you should talk to someone”. In the made-for-movie book, Gottlieb, a therapist and author, describes her own personal journey through post-breakup therapy and some of the deeply human experiences shared by her own patients.

At the particular juncture in the story where she referenced Frenkel’s quote, she also mentions a note from her own therapy studies:

Reaction vs response = reflexive vs chosen

Which brings me back to work. It’s this space between stimulus and response, trigger and action, that I’ve found myself exploring more.

In that meeting where somebody says something that triggers me, I’ve found peace in just listening and noting. I desperately wish I could claim to be a master of this but alas I’m far from such.

But with minimal exploration of this space, so much has been revealed. The most glaring is that most people are also just reacting to other stimuli. Often it’s a boss who’s demanding an instant answer on something or a reaction to the emergency of the moment.

In all cases, most of it is meaningless yet we hand the wheel driving our lives over to these reactions. This all leads me to ask: will you be driven by reactions or driven to design responses?

As it’s the holidays, this is a perfect time to ask as we surround ourselves with people who are the most capable of triggering us 😃.

So a happy holidays to you and I’ll see you in the new year!