How our Righting Reflex effects Communication
Let’s start with an example of the Righting Reflex- IFIOC does not condone the statements used in this example.
Man: “I know you very well miss, and I know your place is in the kitchen cooking rather than out here in the business world with men who know what they are doing. Why don’t you just do what you do best and bake some cookies for our meeting today.”
Whoa. What are you feeling right now? What do you want to say, how do you want to react, how do you FEEL right now? I can imagine there are a lot of thoughts and feelings swirling through your brain including telling this person off. Reminding them that woman ARE capable of being in business and often are much more successful than men. Maybe it’s that you want to slap him, maybe you want to correct him, our reaction to statements is what we call the righting reflex.
When someone says something that is opposite, against or different than our thinking and philosophies we have a natural tendency to want to correct them, right their wrong, or sometimes even tell them off. This is what we call the Righting Reflex.
Good Communication allows both speaker and listener to feel heard and to collaborate, share ideas and thoughts between the two of them. When we react to our righting reflex and choose to correct someone, right their wrong or tell them off- what does that create in conversations and in communication? Tension, discord or resistance. If we want the lines of communication to be open, we have to learn to manage our righting reflex in conversations.
Let’s be clear, just because we manage our righting reflex DOES NOT mean we support, agree or believe in the statements above or that we hear from others. But what we are trying to do when managing our righting reflex is keep the lines of communication open so we can hopefully understand their perspective better and maybe create an opportunity where they are open to understanding our perspective as well. If we choose to not manage our righting reflex, we try to correct them or right their wrong, and we’ve just created tension and a situation where they typically have NO desire to understand our perspective. The opposite of what we were hoping for.
Another example of the righting reflex is resisting the urge to tell people what to do. How many times have you been in this situation before.
You: “Yeah, I’m just not sure what to do about this, I’m trying to figure it out but just haven’t made clear plans…”
Friend: “This is what you need to do, you need to go home, get your baby…..ect.”
Again, in this dynamic the lines of communication are being shut down by someone telling you what to do. If you didn’t want to follow that plan, it becomes harder to express that, as well as to talk through any other thoughts or plans-because someone already laid out the road map for you.
Communication Challenge: Next time you notice yourself wanting to tell someone what to do, correct then or right their wrong. Take a step back and try to suppress this urge within yourself. Try to understand more about why they might take that perspective and explore their thoughts more. With this open-ness to listen and learn, you might just have the opportunity where they ask you about your thoughts and you can share.
Make sure to check out our membership or one of our online classes! Introduction to Motivational Interviewing is a great place to start by learning the basics!