When I’m traveling by train or on the underground in the UK I often see the words ‘Mind The Gap’ painted on the platform edge. The phrase is also often spoken through a recorded message. This is obviously to warn passengers of the gap between the platform and the train.
I took this warning on board some time ago as a reminder to create a gap in my mind and to think before I act. Introducing a gap between stimulus and response was a corner stone of Steven Covey’s advice in his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
I now quite often remind myself and others to Mind The Gap, to create a gap between stimulus and response. When someone says or does something that creates a particularly strong emotional reaction in me, I’ve become better at stopping and thinking about my response. I am less inclined to jump in with the first thing that comes my mind.
Of course, a knee jerk response might actually be the most appropriate. But often it isn’t.
Mind The Gap allows time for questions, in the moment, such as “what emotion am I feeling and why?” and “what is the most appropriate reaction to this situation?”
If you are hot-headed and not used to controlling your impulses then this is actually a very difficult habit to develop. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to offer feedback when you react too quickly. Ask them to be the recorded voice on the train that says “Mind The Gap” when they see you are about to react too quickly.
This foundational habit will transform your ability to influence, gain respect and build trust.