Feeling Pressured To Respond
When people ask me questions, my mind gets muddled. So many thoughts pop up and I cannot think straight. I either freeze up and say nothing, or I blurt out an answer that I end up regretting or wanting to change, later on. What’s wrong with me?
Signed: Feeling Pressured to Respond
Dear Feeling Pressured to Respond,
There is nothing wrong with you! The processing patterns you are describing are extremely common. In fact, every person’s natural tendency for response generally falls into one of two categories. The data taken in either gets processed quickly and the person is comfortable formulating their response immediately (these people like to address things as they are happening and move on). Or the thoughts are processed differently and the person prefers taking a bit of time before sharing their response (these people tend to be working through more possible outcomes, so the process is a bit more elongated).
For some reason, society seems to suggest that a fast response is a better one, and this is just not true/realistic. How the brain takes in the data around us, makes sense of it, and then produces its response is not a reflection of intelligence or degree of care or depth of honesty. With both patterns, the mind is extremely active and contemplative. The person responding truly has a desire to be thorough and clear about what they are expressing. They want the situation to be handled truthfully and accurately. And they don’t want to have to come back to the matter again and again, or cause confusion with repeated changes of opinion.
If you need a bit more time to think things through before you are sure of the answer you wish to give, I encourage you to allow yourself to embrace your process. Don’t criticize yourself for it. Stop imagining your brain’s way of figuring things out is a bad one, and recognize the strengths in your thinking patterns (if given the time you need, it’s likely you have considered the issue from every angle, and your response is usually well thought out and a true final opinion – there won’t be 3 or 4 flip-flops given down the road). If you are struggling with the pressure (perceived or otherwise) of feeling you “should” respond quicker, then I suggest you try options that respectfully meet your need to comment in the moment, while also allowing you time to think things through. You could say:
- I need a little time to think this through – can I get back to you in X timeframe?
- You make some terrific points – I want to give that some thought as I figure out what I think – can we talk about this again tomorrow?
- Thank you for your insight – I want to give your opinions the attention they deserve, so I will chat with you about this again in X time frame.
- You have given me a lot to think about – I will follow up with you/give you my answer in X timeframe.
As long as the other person feels heard, and knows you are not just ignoring them (which is why it is so important to bridge to a specific time when you will revisit the conversation), they will be comfortable giving you the time you need to collect your thoughts and form the response that feels best for the situation. (Just make sure you don’t forget to go back and finish addressing the matter in the timeframe you have provided – even if that means touching base and explaining that you need more time!)
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