About a year ago, I was sitting in a workshop that was all about collaboration, team building, and problem solving. It was a three day workshop. It’s interesting what we take away from professional development conferences. The two main memories that I have from this conference are the food was GREAT and E+R=O. Since today’s blog post is not about the fact that I am typically motivated to go to conferences for the food, I will focus on this equation that I learned.
What it stands for
The E in this equation stands for events in your life that you have no control over. An example of an event may be if you are driving somewhere and someone cuts in front of you. The R stands for response, or how you choose to respond to the event that you have no control over. In the situation where someone cuts in front of you while you are driving, your response may be to lean on your horn and scream an obscenity. The product of the two, the event plus the response, will lead to the outcome – O. If you decide to lean on your horn and scream an obscenity, the result is that your heart rate speeds up, you become agitated, and the person who cut in front of you may retaliate. However, if you take a deep breath, slow down, and reframe your thoughts (ie: the driver may not have see you, the driver may be in a rush, etc.), then you are more likely to remain calm and will continue on your way.
E = events in our life that we have no control over
R = how we choose to respond to these events
O = the outcome
How to apply the equation
E+R=O can be an effective strategy when trying to resolve conflicts. When dealing with a conflict, it is important to focus on what you would like the outcome to be first before deciding how to respond. Do not lose sight of the goal as you determine what your response will be. For instance, if you feel like your partner is not engaged in a game you are playing together because he is distracted by his phone, the goal may be to help refocus him. If you say, “Put down your damn phone” or “You are always on that stupid phone,” it will most likely lead to your partner getting defensive or irritated. However, if your response is more solution focused, it is more likely that you will get the outcome that you want. An example of a solution focused goal is, “I think it would be a good idea if we put our phones away so we can enjoy our time together.” Redirections can also be helpful like taking your partner’s hand, giving them a kiss, or engaging them in a conversation that would direct them away from the device. Don’t forget, the only letter that you are able to manipulate in this equation is the R (your response) so make sure to spend your energy focusing on the R as opposed to trying to change things you cannot control. If you spend your time and energy trying to manipulate the E (the event), you will end up frustrated.
Finding the right timing
Sometimes, our emotions can build up and get the best of us. If we are feeling angry or frustrated, it may be difficult to control how we choose to respond to particular events. During these moments, we may become aggressive, passive, or a combination of the two, which may lead to messier outcomes. It is important to recognize and acknowledge your emotions especially if they begin to escalate so you are able to interject and walk away from the triggering event. This will prevent unproductive and irrational responses from happening. Once you are calm again and your heart rate slows back down, you are more likely to select a response that will lead to an outcome you are happy with.
This is one strategy that can improve all types of relationships and help you become a better communicator. Write it down somewhere you will see it and hopefully it will help guide you the next time you are responding to a situation that you cannot change. If it works for you, let us know! This is a community blog, and we want to hear from you. Stay tuned for our next post: Debate vs. Dialogue.