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Practicing the Art of the Non-Reactive Reaction

You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you. --Brian Tracy

When someone gives you information that surprises you, especially when it’s not as you expected, learning to master the art of the non-reactive response will help you take stock of your situation and keep a level head.

For example, I was called to a parent-teacher conference and informed my 6th grader would be downgraded from honors math to regular math. At that moment, his whole life flashed before my eyes in a completely dramatic manner. How could my perfect child be condemned at such a young age?

My reaction was a bit over the top and not very professional. Fortunately, I didn’t embarrass myself beyond shedding a few too many tears but learning to control my emotions has been a priority for me ever since.

Here’s what I should have done and what I now recommend to others who are in an emotionally disappointing situation:

  1. Purposefully slow down and move with intention.

  2. Take a few breaths.

  3. Relax your face. This could be challenging, but keeping the appearance of a calm exterior will help shield you from appearing to overreact. Sure, inside your stomach could be like a blender set too high, but no one else will notice.

  4. Pretend you are someone else. A bit childish maybe, but it works.

  5. When all else fails, excuse yourself to retreat to a private place. Remember to continue to move slowly.

Once alone, feel free to punch a pillow, cry your eyes out, or dive into a box of chocolates. You’ll pull yourself together soon. We all have reactions to not-so-pleasant news that could potentially derail us, but having a plan in place to control our emotions can help.

It’s also beneficial to have an extra tub of your favorite ice cream in the freezer, just in case.


Executive Mom Nest advisor, professor, speaker, and author Alison Nissen is the executive director of Branded Interviews, a platform that creates video business cards, webinars, and courses for authors, coaches, and entrepreneurs. She is also the co-founder and president of Revel Coach, a career growth platform and award-winning author. Follow her Tales from the Laundry Room @


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