Wednesday, 13 June 2007

The space between stimulus and response

Stephen Covey writes in The 8th Habit that "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In those choices lie our growth and our happiness."

That is a central tenet of my approach to conflict management. We can always choose our response to any stimulus, provocation or comment made within a conversation. if we can train ourselves on the range of possible responses, and how they will effect the direction of the argument then we do two things.

Firstly, we empower ourselves. We become the driver of the discussion rather than just letting the dispute take us along in its path.

Secondly, we take back on board the responsibility that we have to ourselves, our families, colleagues and community to act, communicate and relate effectively.

It is no longer enough to blame our partner or colleague for the dispute. We contribute to it by the way we respond and we need to recognise that and make sure that we don't let ourselves and each other down by not keeping up our end of the bargain.


choiceworker said...

Thankyou for this blog site and the opportunity to engage in this crucially important subject deeply relevant to us as humanity as perhaps never before.
This is a very interesting post that as a psychologist i believe takes us to the nub of the conflict question. When you say "we can always choose our response" whilst this may be theoretically true for many this is not true in their EXPERIENCE. In other words, for the most part, there is no space between stimulus and response because the history gets in the way. Think of Zinedine Zidane getting sent off at last years world cup final. What choice did he have after his mother has been insulted and in his EXPERIENCE he was effectvely thrown back into his story. He became a victim of his story because there was no space. The work fo me is what i call Minding the Gap that is becoming aware that there is a me residing in the present moment (adult/responder) and there is a me residing in history (wounded child/reactor) Unless these two are differentiated then there is no gap because there is only the me of history. So it is that the work of conflict resoluion is in the fianl analysis a matter of the development of consciousness and the resolution of an internal dynamic that gets played out in conflict (as a symptom). It actually has very little to do with what is actually happening now but alot to do with what i perceive is happening now.
The work of the psychologist in conflict resolution is to enable the disputants to differentiate their me of history (wounded child) with their present me (adult)so that they may choose (respond) rather than react.

Anonymous said...

The quote should be attributed to Viktor Frankl.

Anonymous said...

Just a note, Steven Covey borrowed that from Viktor Frankl, who wrote it in Man's Search for Meaning.

Anonymous said...

The space between stimulus and response is actually a quote from Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning.

randy repola said...

Covey gives credit (at least in the audio book) for the quote. He does not claim it as his own finding.