A few days ago, I was listening to a popular sports show on Sirius XM Radio. A retired NFL player commented on the impromptu reactions of many of today’s young athletes.
He said, “These kids think they own the world. They believe that the big money they are earning will get them out of any bind. By now, they should know that there are bad consequences when they react in the wrong way.”
He shared this advice with the athletes, “Just wait 7 seconds before reacting to a difficult scenario.”
I’ve been working on this guidance for many years. I have realized that quickly extracting myself from an argument and getting away is best.
From my experience, I know that trying to get in the last word is never a good idea. It does not matter how articulate or logical my response might be, the other person is unlikely to care.
They are also trying to make their point, and anything I say will fall on deaf ears.
A friend recently shared with me that he quickly walks away from a situation where he is mistreated or disrespected, and he says a prayer to himself to stay calm.
I’m not there yet … work in progress.
Situations Where 7 Seconds is Applied
Here are examples where a measured response applies:
• You are in a meeting when a co-worker mentions that your presentation has failed to meet expectations. Given that you might be upset or hurt by this comment, your immediate reaction might be to say something like this: “If you think you can do a better job, why don’t you start volunteering to lead these projects.” As you can imagine, this comment will create animosity and will derail the meeting. After a pause, you can try the following: “What is it that we can do to make it better?” By taking this approach, you remain professional and focused on getting the work done.
• You and a group of friends are having a great time at a company party that has dragged on well into the night. The cocktails were flowing nonstop, and you no longer feel it is safe for you to drive your vehicle. A friend from the party, who is in the same shape as you, says, “I can give you a ride. I can hold my liquor pretty well.” After a few seconds of thinking about this situation, you make the right decision and request an Uber.
There are countless times in my life when waiting just a few seconds would have resulted in a better decision. I experienced a variation of the second example I shared here when, as a 10-year-old boy, I decided to jump into a vehicle with a family member who was intoxicated.
It did not end well, as I still remember the painful ride to the hospital in the ambulance. It’s true that I was too young to understand the ramifications of my quick decision, but the impact was just the same.
The wisdom of waiting before reacting is a worthwhile practice in our daily lives.