What Would You Do?

(written by Lisa Feeney, Stir the Embers co-founder and facilitator)

In the time before cell phones, I was leaving a grocery store during my lunch break from work when I was stopped by a nicely dressed, handsome young man at a pay phone who asked for change for a dollar. I didn’t have any change, so I smiled, apologized and continued walking to my car. After I put my groceries in my car, I got into the driver’s seat and shut the door. As I turned to lock the door and put on my seat belt, the man was standing next to my car looking in the window. Startled, I jumped and yelped. When I saw him standing there in my window, I knew something was not quite right about the situation, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings so I second-guessed myself and rolled down my car window just a little bit. He looked a little embarrassed and uncomfortable as he said, “I don’t normally do this, but you are a really attractive woman and I was wondering if you’d like to go out with me.” I was surprised and flattered, so I blushed and said, “Oh, thank you for the compliment, but I am married.” Then, he leaned closer to my window and said in what I imagine he thought was his sultry voice, “Well, does your husband follow you everywhere?”

At that moment, I had a choice. Romeo was starting to seriously creep me out and I was getting pretty uncomfortable with the conversation, but I didn’t want to cause a scene or make him feel bad. Sure, he might be a creepy stalker/serial killer intent on doing unspeakable things to me as soon as he could get me alone. But he also might be a completely harmless, socially inept guy who didn’t recognize an easy out to a potentially embarrassing situation when he saw it. Still, there was a little, niggling voice in the back of my head telling me that something was not okay with the whole scenario. Luckily, I chose to listen to that voice.

In his book “Seven Habits of Highly Successful People,” Dr. Stephen Covey talks about the concept of Integrity in the Moment of Choice. The main idea behind the concept is that between every action and reaction, there is a moment where we choose how we’re going to respond. Dr. Covey talks about stretching this moment between action and reaction to avoid an automatic, knee-jerk response in order to choose an appropriate response with integrity. At Stir the Embers, we also believe that by stretching this moment and giving ourselves some space between stimulus and response or action and reaction, we can access our toolbox of possible responses and choose the response that most appropriately fits the situation with which we are presented.

So, how did I choose to respond? I looked the guy squarely in the eye and said in a strong, firm voice, “I was trying to be polite. Now I’m going to be rude. Good bye!” and I started my car, backed it out of the parking space and drove away without looking back. Was that the “correct” response? It was by no means my only choice of a possible response to the situation, but it is the one I chose at the time. At Stir the Embers, we believe that the appropriate response to a threat is one that: 1) de-escalates a situation; 2) creates distance from the threat; and 3) allows the respondent to remain safe. My response choice met those three criteria, so to me, it was an appropriate one.

If you were presented with a similar situation, what would you do?

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: