Want to be taken seriously?

If you’re not getting taken seriously in either your professional or personal life, you may need to do a communication check.

We all know those people who are quick to come back with a verbal comment whenever anything happens.

Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s awkward, and other times it’s just… wrong.

Those folks are reactors. They react (and overreact) to situations.

Reactions and responses are the same in that they are both things you can do after something happens; they differ in that reactions are done without thought and responses are done with thoughtful consideration.

My Mama used to say: “Make sure your brain is in gear before engaging your mouth.”

People who are reactionary aren’t good at making sure their brains are fully in gear. That’s because they’re not giving themselves enough time to think through their responses.

I’m not trying to beat up on these folks – let’s face it: we all do this in some way. Just think about it… how many times have you been in a conversation with someone who says something and then suddenly you’re formulating a response and nothing else they say hits your brain?  Likely more often than you’d like to admit.

Reactions are extremely different than responses. Reactions are instant. Responses are thoughtful.

If you want to be taken seriously, be responsive and not reactive.


When you react to someone who is irritating (either just irritating you or a habitual jerk who drives you nuts):

  • you create a “two wrongs don’t make a right” scenario – you’re both wrong.
  • you take the spotlight off of the person who initially was acting like a fool
  • you lower yourself to their level of behavior
  • there are no winners in the exchange
  • you’re damaging your outlook, mindset, energy level, and reputation

When you react to situations with knee-jerk responses of your own:

  • you show those around you that you’re not capable of handling things on-the-fly
  • you’re exhibiting a low emotional quotient
  • you present yourself as immature and untrustworthy
  • you’ll hurt your chances of being considered as a stable member of the team
  • you’ll be excluded from key events & decision-making processes

Far too often people come to me frustrated that they’ve been unsuccessful in getting a promotion. After a bit of coaching, we usually uncover that this person has really poor reactionary communication patterns.

There are some very simple steps you can follow to get yourself out of the pattern of reaction and into the pattern of responsiveness.

  1. Breathe. Take a really deep breath. When you’re reactive, it’s likely that you are only using one-third of your lung capacity. Lower lung capacity usage=lower oxygen levels. Lower oxygen levels= less oxygen in the brain. Your brain needs oxygen to function properly. So breathe. Breathe before you speak. Breathe as the primary step to follow Mama’s instructions. (Make sure your brain is in gear before engaging your mouth.)
  2. Detach & Consider. There are humans involved in the interaction, and we all woke up in different worlds. Someone in your life woke up in a world next to a cheating spouse & is internalizing that pain. Another person woke up in a world with a sick kid and no one to help. Someone else awakened with a headache and regret. No matter the interaction you are having, the other person has an entire story (an entire universe) about which you are completely unaware. If someone is always crabby to you, using this skills of detachment and consideration before responding can shift the paradigm from a completely tense situation to one of respect and admiration. This is a magic wand for relationships.
  3. Use Silence. Have you heard that saying that silence is golden? It is. It’s beautiful golden, glistening, gleaming goodness. Silence gives your brain time to catch up with possibilities. Think of your mind and its thoughts like a museum with pieces of art. There is a lot of empty space in museums. The reason is so you can stand back and consider, appreciate, and think. Silence creates an environment conducive for cultivating thoughts. Use it. (It’s free.)
  4. Repeat. Using neutral tone and inflection, recount to the person with whom you’re speaking what you understood him or her to say. Read that sentence again, specifically making note of the full formula: •neutral •recount •your understanding
    Many times reactive exchanges escalate and damage relationships simply because no one stopped to clarify understanding.
    Repeating how your brain translated what that person’s brain inspired him/her to communicate softens the exchange by first positioning you as an empathetic listener (only if you used the “neutral” skill)
  5. Take Your Time. So many people demand a quick answer. That’s just too bad for them. Don’t let yourself be bullied into poor communication tactics. Take your time. If you need to think about something, say so. If you need a minute, say “I need a minute to mull that over.” or if it is a heated discussion a softly delivered, “Hmmm… I’m going to take a second to step back.” may be in order.
    I’m a very strong communicator and have been told that some people find me intimidating. As a strong communicator, I understand that. They find me intimidating because while I think quickly on my feet, they may not. My speed and communication skill can push them to feel pressured. It’s nothing I intend to project, but my strength coupled with the other person’s inability to both own their need for a slower pace and the confidence to express that need results in their feeling intimidated.
    Learning how to communicate this can soften the strongest communicator.

After guiding clients through redesigning their communication patterns they have a much easier time, but it’s not always smooth sailing. There are still things that are difficult – such as knowing how to tell people “no.”

Why is that so difficult?

If you fall into that group, you’re in luck. I’ve made a free guide called “How to Say No Without Saying No” and you can download it by clicking here.

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