TIP: HOW TO RESPOND WHEN PUT ON THE SPOT
Updated: Apr 9
My articles aim to help you understand yourself more deeply, so that you can make changes in how you think about your issues, and thus change your emotional state (rid yourself of anxiety and self doubt!) and your behavior. To accomplish this, my posts will vary in content from explanatory/theoretical to practical. Today's post is the first of many 'Tips' I will be sharing to teach you how to practically change your thoughts and behavior in the moment.
Feeling put on the spot can happen for a variety of reasons – we could be feeling insecure about the topic at hand, we could be feeling insecure in the presence of certain people, we could be annoyed by the person asking the question, etc. The reason for our feeling put on the spot is important, but when it comes to changing our behavior, what matters more is our awareness that something feels wrong. In order to prevent responding defensively or reacting, we need to first know that we are uncomfortable with the question at hand.
For example, let’s say you have a colleague who has not historically been respectful of you, and you have sensed in the past that this person takes jabs at you with mini insults. The reason this upsets you is not as important as the fact that it does upset you. The fact here is that you sense something is off about this person and you would be VALID in thinking so.
The reason for why we feel uncomfortable isn't as important in that moment as realizing point blank that we are uncomfortable. When we are aware of our internal state, we are able to then take a moment of pause and follow the steps outlined in this post (see the image above):
1. To start, notice what feeling put on the spot feels like for you: it could be that you are rushed with fear, your mind goes blank, you are afraid that what you answer will blow up in your face, you sense that you are in a lose-lose situation that no matter what you say this person will have some kind of reaction that is undesirable etc….
2. Once you recognize that, be on alert when you are in triggering situations or with triggering people as these predicaments are ripe for those environments.
3. Then, when the moment hits, you are now prepared. After you take a moment to breath, remember that you don’t have to respond or answer their question. You can pause, and look them in the eye, and say (without any attitude or sass, just simply with curiosity), “Why do you ask?” OR if it’s a statement they made you would say: “What do you mean by that?”
This forces them to speak to whatever it is they are hinting at. Don’t do the hard work for them. This is also an opportunity for you to avoid the pitfalls of making assumptions about the other persons intentions, and/or what the other person thinks or feels.
4. Then, after they respond, you reply with “hm… interesting” and then tack on whatever you would like at the end depending on the nature of the exchange.
The goal for managing your reactions in the face of adversity is to learn to control yourself, because you can only control yourself. You cannot control what others think about you. So when you are put off by someone and something they are saying, take your time and make them do the hard work of expressing what they are trying to get you to react to, instead of reacting. You maintain self control, you won't say or do anything you later regret, and you put the onus on the person who is putting you on the spot to say or express themselves clearly (preventing yourself from taking the bait).
Give this a try next time you are in a work meeting, or out with a friend, or on the phone with a pushy family member! Report back and share how it went!