Grace is in the Space
What is grace? And where is the space? (1:15)
What hasty reactionary behavior can cost you (3:50)
The ABCs of Grace in the Space (4:25)
What happens to your body and in your brain when you’re triggered (6:15)
How to create space for grace instead of reacting hastily to triggers (8:30)
Today I want to tell you...
about one of my absolute favorite sayings. I actually think it’s a Beth Wonson Original because when I Googled it with quotation marks around it, only my own articles and writing came up in the results. So I’m going to go ahead and own it!
And that saying is: Grace is in the space. This isn’t just a catchy phrase to me. Grace is in the space is actually part of my operating system. It’s a tool, and it’s one of the mantras in my Navigating Challenging Dialogue workshop.
The space I’m speaking of is the difference between how I react hastily or respond thoughtfully to things that happen to me. The grace is the gift that comes from resisting the urge to react to an event, a comment, or a behavior just because it stimulates an emotional trigger in my body.
This grace has spared me from blaming, attacking, feeling humiliated, or attempting to humiliate others, both in my worklife and at home. More times than I can count, the simple act of reminding myself – sometimes over and over and over – that grace is in the space has saved me from damaging my relationships and spared me the cycle of shame, guilt, and regret. I can easily say it’s one of the most effective tools in my toolbox.
Now I’m going to share a secret with you: We all have reactionary behaviors that we repeat again and again. Most often they take us totally by surprise. You know the scenario…
Everything is going well. You’re having a nice conversation in a group, or maybe you’re reading posts on social media, and then – BAM! Suddenly, something is said, or read, and before you know it, you have made a comment you wish you could suck back in.
But you can’t, and things begin to unravel. Feelings are hurt. Relationships are damaged. Somebody responds to you with a jab and you recognize a familiar nagging feeling in your body. And you wonder, “How can this be happening again? I thought I moved past this.”
For some of us, these unthinking reactionary behaviors are what keep us from moving up in a company. They prohibit us from being promoted or they keep us going from job to job. For others, they’re what keep us from being assigned the high profile project we desire, and for still others, maybe they keep us at odds with family and friends, moving from relationship to relationship.
You see, A) Everybody gets triggered, B) Grace is in the space, and C) You get to manage the amount of space between what happens and your response to what happens. Failure to recognize that, and whether you thoughtlessly react rather than choosing your response, is where it all goes bad.
Oh, man, it took me a long time to learn this and to really key into the second mantra that I live by, which is: I only have the power to manage myself.
The power to manage myself lives in that space between the comment somebody makes that triggers me and recognizing that a trigger is building in my body.
The thing is, our bodies react to triggers with fight or flight behavior. What this means, in a simplified way, is that the chemicals your body sends through your system when you feel vulnerable, unsafe, or attacked actually stop or restrict the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the side of your brain that stimulates helpful and supportive things like assessment of a situation, analysis, critical thinking, and the part of you that seeks collaboration and connection. Instead, all that oxygen-rich blood is sent to the part of your brain that decides whether to flee or attack.
The key is to remember that not every interaction you have is going to be triggering and what triggers each of us is unique. That’s what can make dialogue so challenging and complex! It is the inability to predict what will set off the trigger that creates the surprise.
That is why I am so committed to helping individuals, teams, and workgroups recognize what their unique and individual triggers feel like, what it feels like in their body when a trigger is gathering a head of steam, and then take some very simple steps to dissipate that energy before there’s a reaction that someone is going to regret.
The space I’m talking about can be a nanosecond long, a minute, an hour, a day, a week, or even a lifetime – that’s your choice. Emotionally triggered reactions overpower us, but you can take back that power by simply inhaling through your nose, feeling the ground beneath your feet, and connecting with the beat of your heart. That’s all that is required to create a space that offsets an emotional reaction you may regret later.
So go ahead, try it right now. Take a long breath in through your nose and allow your shoulders to loosen and fall as the oxygen travels down into your lungs … and then exhale gently through your mouth, allowing excess energy and stress to simply leave your body with your breath.
As you continue inhaling and exhaling, listen for the beat of your heart. If you can’t hear it, simply feel it or imagine it, and feel gratitude for that heartbeat.
There! You just did it. You created space. Do you feel the grace in that space? From this place, you can make decisions or consider a response from a place of balance, with the better parts of your brain fully engaged. I encourage you to play with this, to try it, to notice what feels different.
And if you would like to learn more about my Navigating Challenging Dialogue workshop, or if you’re interested in joining me in this work as a certified Navigating Challenging Dialogue Trainer, visit NavigatingChallengingDialogue.com and get on my list to receive training information and updates.