• Steve Daily

MINDFUL RESPONDING - The Third Effective Living Skill Blog # 13


This blog is the third in a series of ten effective living skills self-study program. The series is intended to provide you with simple study materials that can help you master effective living skill sets to improve the quality of your life. The self-study is free of charge, and you can find the MINDFUL RESPONDING study handout and accompanying worksheet at the top of the home page where it lists Self Study. Just click on self-study and download or print off the PDF titled Mindful Responding. Read on to learn about the MINDFUL RESPONDING SKILL SET.

Why Is Mindful Responding Important?

Mindful responding is an extremely important “effective living skill set.” It helps us to think and act in a wise and thoughtful way, instead of reacting in an overly emotional and impulsive manner. Mindful responding helps regulate our emotions, aids us to communicate in a more effective way, and helps to stop us from saying and doing things that we are likely to regret. Although there are numerous mindful responding skills, this skill study will focus on the writer’s favorite three mindful responding skills that seem to have the greatest impact. Keep in mind that when we react in the survival mode (the fight-flight-freeze response), the prefrontal cortex (higher functioning part of the brain capable of empathy and making wise decisions) shuts down and allows the more primitive part of the brain to take over for survival.

THE STOP SKILL: Acquiring the STOP Skill is an important first step in learning to respond mindfully. STOP is an acronym for four important steps to take when faced with an emotionally distressing situation in which you are tempted to react in an ineffective fearful or angry manner.

Stop before you make things worse. (Catch yourself when your emotions start to rise, and stop before you react ineffectively).

Take several deep breaths to calm your body and quiet your mind. (Deep breaths help you to relax and turn off the fight-flight-freeze reaction. Take a step back or away from the situation).

Open your mind to better options of responding. (When you have calmed down, consider what would be healthy or wise options for responding in the current situation).

Proceed with respect and compassion. (Act in a wise way that will allow you to be respectful and to show compassion to others and yourself).

THE WISE MIND SKILL: Marsha Linehan, psychologist who developed Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), developed the wise mind skill. This skill helps us to understand that we often respond from one of three states of mind. The three mind states are: reasonable mind, emotion mind, and wise mind. When we respond in reasonable mind, we tend to be overly logical and fail to take our feelings and the feelings of others into consideration. When we respond in emotion mind, we are likely to fail to recognize facts and may not consider the long- term consequences of our actions. If we quiet ourselves and use our wise mind, we can make better decisions by being aware of facts, consequences, our emotions and the feelings of others. Example: You feel overworked and disrespected by your boss. In emotion mind, you might tell your boss off in anger and walk out. In reasonable mind, you may suck it up and just stuff your feelings because you need the money. In wise mind, you are more likely to respond in a controlled manner, go home after work and plan how to improve your situation wisely.

MINIMIZE SHOULD THINKING: “Should thinking” tends to create a great deal of distress in people’s lives. We tend to get angry at ourselves when we think we should have done something we didn’t do, or think we should have done something we believe we should have done. We also feel anger toward others when they fail to do something, we believe they should have, or do something we feel they shouldn’t have. Should thinking is often associated with judgmental and rigid thinking. If we can train our minds to recognize and substitute the four words “it would be nice” for the word “should”, we can greatly lessen the distress and anger we feel. Example: Instead of thinking my boss should never get angry, think it would be nice if my boss showed less anger. Instead of thinking I should never be late, think it would be nice if I wasn’t late for work today. Often that small shift can ease our distress.


         Please check out the free educational handouts to feel good enough.

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