The Knee Jerk Reaction


Have you ever been approached with a situation and the decision seemed obvious to you, so you make the choice quickly and it ended up being the wrong choice?


Early in my career, people would come to me upset and even angry about a situation.  Someone had done them wrong and they wanted someone to step in bringing down the hammer of justice on the one who had wronged them.  They would be fuming about what had just gone down.  I would ask them to tell me what was wrong.  Emotionally they would begin, explaining the circumstances and it would indeed sound like they were accurate in the way they felt.  Me, being the hero I thought I was, wanting to stand up for the rights of my people,  would sympathize with them and react.  I felt the way they felt and was bound and determined to right this evil wrong.


What I found was that I really didn’t have all the information from the situation and it caused me to look extremely foolish when I reacted without the rest of the facts.  I wanted my people to know I had their back and they could trust me.  Unfortunately, I was getting burned whether they meant to manipulate the situation in their favor or not.  Simply reacting was making me look silly and foolish.  Simply reacting are what animals do, no thought process, just a reaction.  It shocked me that I acted this way.  I had to discipline myself to be smarter than that.  I had to actively discipline myself to be smarter than the situation.  What separates humans from the rest of God’s animals is our ability to think things through, to plan two, three, and four steps ahead.


I encourage you to do this.  The next time you are prompted to action think first.  Gather more information.  Find out what’s really going on.  When someone approaches me I say something similar to,

Really?  That sounds odd. Let me look into it and see if I can find out what’s going on.”


Now you can go about the business of finding out the rest of the story and your people can still trust you to see things through and handle the situation fairly and justly without making a decision based solely on emotion.


6 thoughts on “The Knee Jerk Reaction

  1. savurbks says:

    Not responding emotionally can be a difficult thing to do but the results are usually worth the effort. Thanks for the positive thoughts! And thanks for visiting my blog on Christian book reviews!

  2. No problem. I love your site!!!!!!

  3. Tammy Davis says:

    I’ve been there, too! Thanks for the reminder.

  4. philjackman says:

    Once you undertand a problem the solution will be obvious. Good stuff thanks.

  5. […] CranstonHolden is the nom de plume of a manager writing about real experience not therory. In this excerpt mirroring too painfully the beginning of my own career, Cranston cautions against playing the role of judge, jury and executioner and quickly running to resolve alleged issues. As any experienced HR person will tell you, there are not two sides to any story: there are about 13. Cranston says the right answer may not be jumping to the gun of problem solving, but rather taking a strong look at the facts and conditions before generating a response. […]

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