By Reese Ramos, Director & University Ombuds at Virginia Tech

There is a moment in every conversation, in every communication, in which an immense shift can happen between people.

When things are not going in the direction you would like them to go something suddenly happens. Not every time, but the possibility lies there in the space between what we call action and reaction.

Imagine that anytime anyone says or does something there is a gap between the stimuli and what you would think, say, or do. Now imagine if in this gap there was an opportunity for you to choose what your reaction would be. Would it then be possible for conversations and events to be experienced completely different? Absolutely.

There’s a powerful story about a man named Viktor Frankl who had the horrific experience of being sent to a Nazi death camp. Viktor suffered all the atrocities of World War II and after his release wrote a wonderful book called Man’s Search for Meaning. In this book Victor described that though he was a prisoner and his physical freedom was taken away by the Nazi’s there was something they were not able to ever take away from him. Viktor recognized that despite all the atrocities around him they could not take away his ability to think and the meaning he could give what he was experiencing. In the end it was he and he alone that would decide within himself how all this was going to affect him. In other words, Viktor had found inner freedom in the ability to choose how he was going to re-interpret what was happening externally. It did not excuse or justify any of what was happening but his commitment to create meaning gave him ultimate personal power over his situation,

So instead of reacting the next time something negative happens know that our experience of that moment can be found somewhere between action and reaction. In that space our destiny is shaped. It is a small shift but it makes a universe of difference. Instead of reacting to the moment we respond to the moment. We are aware of it. It doesn’t excuse or justify the event happening but the greatest power we can have is to decide how we choose to experience the event.

If you want to explore more about how we can better respond to conflict feel free to visit our free video sessions on the topic on our YouTube channel.