You Will Never Prevent Reactions. Here Is What You Can Do.

Last week, while waiting to board a flight, I mindlessly scrolled Instagram. A simple announcement by a Bay area photographer I follow interrupted my scrolling. A far deviation from his photos was a simple box that read “I am taking a break from Instagram.” Despite his superb ability to make even a small piece of text beautiful, what caught my eye the most was the comments that followed.

Below his image was a war field of battling emojis. The first comment was a one character emoji of sadness. Others followed with the opposite - a simple happy face, some with red cheeks above their smiles. There were thumbs up of encouragement and others took it further expressing, “we should all take a lead from you.” Some followers wanted to understand why. They speculated about if Facebook's recent exposure in the news had prompted his decision. As a person fascinated by human behavior, I wondered if he’d jump back on to reply to his followers’ comments (he did).

One action, taken by one person, created at least a dozen different reactions. All within one hour.

Our actions create reactions.

Our presence and our work have an impact on others. This - our actions, our way of showing up AND others response - is the focus of a lot of the conversations between my clients and me.

One of the biggest mistakes that I see leaders make is choosing actions that cause the least reactions. This does not define good work. This is a formula that supports bringing the least of yourself into your work. You show up as half a human in relationships and you reduce your imprint on your communities.

Further, it is impossible to create no reactions. All actions create reactions.

So what is the right formula?

A few steps can create a thoughtful approach:

  1. Get clear on our intent. What are you trying to accomplish.
  2. Choose actions that align with that intent. Ask yourself honestly if your actions easily support your intent.
  3. Think through possible reactions. Know the people you will impact and plan for possible reaction.
  4. Adjust our actions, as needed. Try to prevent mistakes before they occur. Communicate our intent as clearly as possible. “My intent is…”
  5. Take action. Make it an active choice.
  6. Be open to feedback, iteration, and learning. It doesn’t need to be perfect.

The Instagram exiting photographer didn't trick himself into believing that no one would have a reaction. He planned for possible reactions, he weighed them against his intent in leaving the platform and then he made a decision. The planning and clarity he pursued, in advance of his action, minimized the weight of others reaction on him. In doing so, he trusted himself to course correct in any direction needed.

Not everyone will react positively to everything you say or do, but will you pass your own test?