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Want A New Year’s Resolution That Will Actually Make a Real Difference? January 4, 2022

Hair Trigger Responses

When we did the research for The Kindness Challenge, one of our findings is that many of us have an unrecognized tendency to catastrophize. “If such and such happens, it will be a catastrophe!” For example, “If this person gets elected, it will be a catastrophe!” Or “If my friend dates so-and-so . . .” Or “If we don’t do something about such-and-such . . .” Or “If my child doesn’t study for this test . . .” It is so easy to finish those sentences with: it will be a catastrophe. And don’t get me wrong, that may very well be true!

But what we found in the research is that for some reason, we often become remarkably unkind in confronting that potential catastrophe. We give ourselves license to not be our best selves—to be an unkind, ungracious person because we feel justified in our fear/angst/worry/alarm. But when we look back in our right mind (days, or weeks, or months, or years later) we often find ourselves saying, “what was I thinking?”

Many people today have seen how unkind and divided our culture has become, right? Well one of the main reasons is how much we have let ourselves have a “hair trigger.” We have such a knee-jerk reaction to these potential catastrophes and the harm that could result—and we focus on the catastrophe so much—that we lose any sense of objectivity about a) how likely the harm is and b) the fact that we can cause harm when we confront it.

That’s why I love one man’s honesty and cautionary tale for all of us.

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