Key Moment: An Example

distressed woman

In my last blog I presented the idea of a key moment. Now I’d like to bring the concept alive with an example from the workplace.

Remember the definition. A key moment is a situation or event that presents a challenge and demands a response. How we respond to our key moments determines, to a large extent, our effectiveness in dealing with life.

Anatomy of a Key Moment

Here’s a diagram of what happens during a key moment:

Let me offer an example of how this works.

For some time, Lisa had been studying an initiative to improve her organization. She decided to do a formal presentation in an upcoming staff meeting to gain a commitment to pursue the idea. After doing her homework, she went to the meeting feeling prepared and energetic.

However, throughout her presentation her boss looked down, scribbled on a note pad, and made no comments. The response of her boss was disturbing and confusing to Lisa, who felt not only hurt but deflated by her boss’s behavior. How Lisa responds to this event is significant to her ongoing relationship with her boss and as well as effectiveness on the job.

It is so easy to assume that an event causes our feelings. Lisa’s boss looked down and scribbled during her presentation. This event caused her to feel hurt and deflated.

But, if we look for carefully, we can see that Lisa’s feelings were not caused by her boss’s behavior but rather the meaning she gave his behavior.

Meaning Drives Feelings and Behavior

By changing her thoughts or the meaning she gives his behavior, Lisa can alter her feelings and, consequently, behavior and results. For example, she could tell herself, “My boss is distracted;” or “My boss already understands and agrees with what I am sharing.” Or, “I don’t know what my boss thinks. I’ll have to check it out.”

Even if Lisa were to discover that her boss didn’t like her presentation, the way she talks to herself will make a difference in how she feels and handles the situation. She could think: “Oh no! Now I’ve blown it. I’ve lost credibility with my boss.” On the other hand, she could think, “I didn’t do as much homework as I could have and need to better document my point of view before talking further about this subject.”

Self-Talk Makes all the Difference

Notice that how Lisa talks to herself makes an incredible difference, not only in how she feels, but how she’s likely to act. She can empower or disempower herself by how she thinks about what is happening.

Maybe Lisa gets into a negative thought pattern (“I’ve lost credibility with my boss”). She withdraws to her work place and spends much of the remainder of the day in unproductive stewing about what she could have done better or why she couldn’t get the recognition she deserved for her efforts. Or, she may have found a sympathetic co-worker with whom she could criticize her boss. Her behavior makes her feel better temporarily, but weakens her capability for dealing with concerns in a direct and honest manner.

If Lisa withdraws from her boss and harbors resentments, she is going to have a more difficult time communicating or relating to him in the future. Unconsciously, she communicates her hurt or resentment (through silence, sarcasm, etc.) which her boss senses, perhaps causing him to treat her in a more unfavorable way. If she ignores her need for communication, their relationship becomes superficial.

These solutions becomes the problem and the consequences of her actions set up new triggering events; ironically, the same events that she wanted to avoid in the first place. She creates the very conditions that she fears, complains about and blames on others.

Choosing Empowering Responses

On the other hand, Lisa could have acted in a way that strengthens her and others. She could have approached her boss and “checked out” her assumptions by sharing her perceptions or asking him for his thoughts regarding her presentation. He may have responded by saying he fully concurred with what she had to say but was distracted by another matter that came to his attention just prior to the meeting. She would then have realized that she had misinterpreted his behavior as disapproval when it was not intended as such.

Or, he may have shared some concerns about her presentation. Lisa could recognize this as an opportunity to use his point of view as information to further clarify her own thinking or to engage in further dialogue about their differences in point of view.  In either case, she would be strengthened by the exchange because she acted from personal integrity and was willing to use this experience to learn and grow.

As is apparent from this example, key moments are a great opportunity for personal growth. However, if we get caught up in negative thinking then we’re likely to react in weakening and unproductive ways. But, if we can be aware of the process taking place—our thoughts, feelings, and behavior—and make better choices, we not only grow but create more positive circumstances and experience fewer triggering events. Doing so takes emotional and mental discipline and even courage. But the rewards are well worth the effort.


1 Comment

  1. Christopher Iradukunda

    Waooooo really Iam very delighted to have read this text. really it pushes me in front what can I comment just be courage to do more actually our generation are all like blinds according how I see my area.hhhhhhhh we are all like trigger happy which is very damage to the world but with your vision I am sure the world could be changed in right way. Thank you a lot Roger K. Allen.


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