Masterful Inactivity Isn’t Passive….it’s a choice
How to zip-it and give yourself breathing space. How to respond and how to avoid just reacting.
This is a tricky one for so many of us. Wait. Pause. Think a bit. Choose if you’re going to act; to respond. To ‘Zip it’ is such a useful little phrase and it’s easy to remember. It’s an active choice rather than a passive stance.
It’s so easy to assume we have to respond, to fire back after receiving a message, a phone call, and an email and just respond – straight away. Either ‘shooting from the lip’ or, when writing, ‘shooting from the fingertip’.
So, instead of the flaming arrow you might send which can end up costing a lot of time and money in confusion and back-tracking, why not try a bit of ‘Masterful Inactivity’, which is zipping it in action, or really in chosen and considered inaction. One of my clients named it that and it’s perfect as a mindset. Masterful inactivity in action.
There’s a difference you see. Ignoring things has no energy to it. It’s passive. Whereas ‘Masterful inactivity’, has some energy about it. It’s a decision to wait; to pause; to Zip-It; sometimes to just wait and see how things pan out before responding or acting. Other times just to breathe or to sleep on it. Other times to just let it be and let the other person go or certainly let their ‘vibe’ quieten down.
Instead of responding to those flaming-arrow types of email or urgently urgent phone calls, wait. We have to recognise an emergency and act on it, of course, but most of the time others’ urgencies don’t have to become our emergencies, do they?
Often the person sending the message will either chase you up or – more often than not – call you to follow up or apologise. They often sort out the thing that they pounced on you to do and, if they don’t, then you now have a choice. By waiting, pausing – even if it’s just for 5 minutes – you also give yourself time to breathe. Take time to consider and you often take the energy, frustration and heat out of your own response.
When someone says something to you and you feel the ‘arrrgghh’ of frustration rise up or, often worse, the sarcastic voice which is so easy to use for your response, instead of going with it, wait. Pause. Sometimes you don’t even have to comment and it’s often far more powerful if you don’t. You remember to breathe and you wait. It’s like letting the air go out of it!
If you decide in that moment that you will adopt a bit of ‘masterful inactivity’ then you’ve made a decision as opposed to reacted. Different. The other person will often be surprised by your silence. Also as their own heat dissipates, they may re-think their decision or opinion. You, on the other hand, decided to just park it for a while.
This works just as well in our social lives too. Think of all the opportunities you have to Zip it at home – especially at the heightened emotional, excitement of Christmas time.
3 tips to take on and try
- Be on the lookout for opportunities to adopt masterful inactivity today. When you open an email, read it and then maybe put it into a file you create called ‘Masterful Inactivity’. You can then keep an easy eye on when and how you respond, and it’s easy to keep track of any you decide to file here.
- Decide if you’re going to respond to someone or something. Notice how you decide. Are you thinking things through? Are you reacting to someone else’s crisis or demand at the price of your own concentration, your own flow? You may just decide to zip it. Stay quiet. Wait. Let go of having to always be involved.
- Notice other people and how they react or respond. You’ll realise that a lot of people do zip it and watch, wait and see. Watch how they do it and, depending on how you feel, ask them about it.
Not a new idea I know but it’s one that works. Seneca, the Roman philosopher (5BC – 65AD) said “It is a great thing to know the season for speech and the season for silence.” “It is a great thing to know the season for speech and the season for silence.” Whilst the year-end break doesn’t necessarily imply silence, sometimes applying that 5 second response rule really makes for a merrier, more peaceful time. Always a blessing.
Enough said Amanda.
This article is extracted from my number 1 best-selling book ‘The A to Z of Being Understood. Z is for Zip-It.