Are you a firework?

Fireworks go up with a big bang when touched by a spark. They make a load noise and burn bright for a moment. While most people enjoy the show, most don’t like the noise. Yet every year we get excited for the holidays where we can watch shows from others or create our own. Fireworks can also be dangerous to the one lighting them, or to those around if things go wrong.

Every time I see a firework show I am reminded of several people I know, who can blow up quickly, make a lot of noise and put on a show with their anger. I’ve labeled them as fireworks because they are fun to watch on occasion, and yet they can do harm to those that get too close.

These people tend to react to situations instead of responding. They take offense quickly; they lash out instead of listening and they make a scene when things don’t go their way. It can be very effective in getting people to back off and leave them alone or in getting their way on something. Yet it is detrimental in the long run. Fireworks can’t be trusted to handle stressful situations well, so opportunities are missed. They can’t be trusted to accept constructive feedback, so advancement slows down. They can’t be trusted to give feedback to others appropriately, so it limits leadership opportunities.

5 Ways to avoid becoming a firework:

  1. Pause before you speak: When you get bad news or hear something that upsets you take a moment before you say anything. If you let your initial feelings dictate your actions, you may find yourself reacting emotionally instead of responding professionally.
  2. Think about why you are triggered: Take a quick moment to evaluate why you feel upset or angry or driven to lash out. Is it reminding you of something in your past that hurt you? Do you really think the person delivering the message wants to do harm?
  3. Be grateful: Take a moment to acknowledge that you received information you didn’t have previously. You may not like the news or even agree with the other person’s perspective, however they have given you a gift of knowledge. They shared news that you can act on as needed. If they share that something went wrong, you now have a chance to get it back on track. This is helpful, so be grateful. And yes, this is easier said than done at first.
  4. Take deep breathes: The adage to count to 10 exists for a reason – it works. Instead of jumping in with a quick response take some deep breathes and check in with your thoughts. This will help you clear your mind so you can think about the situation.
  5. Ask a question: When you have calmed yourself enough to respond ask a clarifying question, so you have more information. Seeking additional information will help you better understand the other person’s perspective and intent. The more you know, the better you can respond.

When you think about the people, or leaders, you admire most there is a good chance that they are great at responding instead of reacting to anything thrown at them. Being seen as grace under fire will help people trust you to do what’s needed which builds your credibility. When you take the time to respond professionally it is a sign of high emotional intelligence, EQ. The best leaders have high EQ and it is a great predictor of success. Additionally, people will want to hear what you have to say because you are responding not reacting. Save the fireworks for the holidays!


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