Most of us have heard of the "stop-drop-and-roll" method. It’s considered to be the most efficient technique for extinguishing fire on a person's clothing. Did you know that you can also use this same method to help you put out business fires?
As a small business coach working with women starting up businesses, I have helped thousands of women put out all types of business fires. No one likes it when a fire occurs. And everyone, once it's over, asks, "How can I prevent this from happening again?" Well, in truth, you can't. Fires will happen. However, you can learn how to deal with fires differently, in a way that leaves you feeling calm, centered, and sure.
How? By taking the proven stop-drop-and-roll method and applying it to any fire—large or small—that flares up in your business.
I call it the “Stop-Drop-and-Roll Mindfulness Method.” It’s a powerful tool that the small business owner can pull from her toolbox anytime to create mindfulness in the face of challenging situations.
Are you a reactor or a responder?
When faced with a challenge, most people have an automatic knee-jerk reaction that comes from a place of fear. When you're mindful, you do just the opposite. Instead of reacting out of fear, you respond out of wisdom. Instead of a knee-jerk reaction, you find a response that is more thoughtfully considered. Instead of reacting emotionally, you find yourself responding mindfully.
Look at the list below. Decide if you are more of a reactor or a responder. Put a check mark beside the statement that is most like you in each of the paired choices.
- I make assumptions from an ironclad point of view.
- I defend myself.
- I often repeat myself, getting louder and more animated each time.
- I use judgmental and defensive phrases, such as: "Why did you do that?" or "You never told me that."
- I need to be right.
- I place blame outwardly by using "you" statements.
- I get angry when the other person and I don’t agree.
- I remain open to other perspectives and opinions.
- I explain situations.
- I am a clear and direct communicator, preferring not to escalate the situation.
- I use inviting, open-ended questions, such as: "Could you tell me more about that?"
- I want to be heard.
- I take personal responsibility by using "I" statements.
- I know that it’s okay to “agree to disagree” and don’t feel the need to force a resolution.
If you're like most people, you have check marks in both columns. Nevertheless, look to see where the majority of your check marks are. Are you more of a reactor or a responder? One way or the other, you'll find this method helpful in putting out your small business fires. Here's how it works:
If you find that your clothes are on fire, stop. Don’t fan the flames by running. This is also good advice when you find yourself reacting to a business fire.
Although your natural instinct may be to fight for your position, defend yourself, or run from conflict, resist the urge to do so. The first step in becoming mindful is to simply stop. As Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn says, "Smile, breath, and go slowly."
When a business challenge arises, you probably think it needs immediate attention and action. In truth, it rarely does. Find a way to stop what you are doing. Don't try to pat the fire out or run. Simply step back, table your reaction, and breathe.
If you're in a fire situation, drop to your knees and lie down on the ground. Noxious fumes and heat rise. That’s why it’s important to drop so you can breathe cooler air and not burn your lungs. This is great advice when you feel your own emotional heat rising.
Emotional flames can go from 0 to 60 in seconds. Therefore, to stop your fire in its tracks, simply drop. Take yourself out of the heat of the moment and allow yourself time to calm down. Drop by writing in a journal, taking a short nap, or listening to soothing music. Do whatever it takes to calm yourself and breathe cooler air.
Once you're down on the ground, roll. Rolling is the best way to smother and put out the fire. When it comes to business fires, what does it mean to roll?
It is hard to figure out what needs to be done with a business fire if you are emotionally on fire yourself. So before taking any further action, it’s best to roll. Just allow the emotional fire to abate. Remember Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu's query: "Do you have patience to wait ‘til your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving ‘til the right action arises by itself?" Doing nothing, or rolling, may give you a clearer picture of how to proceed than taking action ever could.
Three tips to consider while the mud settles:
1. Be willing to suspend judgment for a moment and just listen
Go within. Sit in silence for five minutes. Focus on your breathing. Notice the world around you.
2. From a calm, mindful state, figure out which of your buttons was pushed
Smile, breathe, and release. Now, move forward with a calm, mindful strategy. Take your time.
3. Single-task—don't multi-task
As new thoughts, feelings, and choices bubble up from within and a way to face your challenges presents itself, take action on one thing at a time .
The next time you’re presented with a business fire, don’t make it worse by fanning the flames with reactivity. Instead, respond with wisdom by using this method. If you do, you'll be creating a space from which new thoughts, choices, and behaviors can emerge. As a small business owner, you’re bound to face plenty of fires. Don’t get burned: Stop, drop and roll.