positive_smiles“If you can assume, in the moment, that the naysayer actually means well, you can respond with information that may be of help to him or her.”— Misti Burmeister

After spending four days in San Diego with a bunch of happy people – a group of roughly 2,000 motivational speakers – I was feeling great!

Then I stepped back into reality.

While waiting for my purse and shoes to come off the security belt at the airport, a fellow passenger,   standing there said, “Enough with all the crap – get moving.”

“I’m in the way?” I asked, noticing the belt had stopped and I still had to get my purse and shoes.

“Yes, you’re in the way!”

I ignored him and concentrated on getting my stuff together. Just then, he murmured something under his breath.

“Did you just call me a dumbass?” I asked.

With my heart racing, I reverted back to my fourth-grade (or maybe 4-year-old) self.

“My butt isn’t stupid. It knows how to poop all on its own,” I said with real authority, and then walked away as quickly as I could.

Really, Misti, I thought. That was your comeback?

Not super-mature, I grant you. But I was reacting. Though my reasoning for such a strong reaction to some stranger calling my butt dumb is beyond me.

Getting Back to Happy

After getting out of reaction-mode, a better response became abundantly clear.

It’s the same response I encouraged a good friend of mine to use when her son said something mean to her: “Wow, those words feel exceptionally unkind.”

While I don’t know if that man would have cared, most people don’t want to be unkind; they just don’t know when their behaviors leave another person feeling that way.

So, let them know. Kindly, of course.

Here are a few steps to keep your positive parade going:

  • Acknowledge: While we cannot stop our brains from being hijacked by the amygdala (the fight, flight or freeze part of the brain), we can stop and notice what’s happening.
  • Breathe: Getting oxygen throughout your brain, and particularly to the frontal lobe, gives you access to reasoning, rather than reacting.
  • Respond: If you can assume, in the moment, that the naysayer actually means well, you can respond with information that may be of help to him or her.
  • Refocus: Once the flood of irritation is gone, refocus yourself on the present moment. As Elisabeth Kubler-Ross says, “There are only two primary emotions: love and fear.” The two cannot co-exist, and the only emotion that is present is love. Fear exists in the past or future, neither of which you have any power over.
  • Re-energize: Allow pictures of events and people that have inspired you to resurface. See them, remember them, and get your energy back to where you want it to be.

Now, in truth, it took me several minutes – and a “Can you believe what this guy just said to me?” moment with a stranger – to let it go. What helped most was recognizing I had been triggered, deciding to drop it, and then quickly reconnecting with what inspires me. Oh, and finding the humor in my 4-year-old-response!

Join the Conversation: What’s your best response to people who pee on your parade?

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Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across Generations and Hidden Heroes

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