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Negative Reactivity: A Head to Toe Awareness Tool

As a leader it is easy to succumb to unhelpful reactivity if you don’t spent time studying yourself and preparing for difficult situations.

This self-awareness tool helps leaders of all kinds to reflect on personal triggers, so that you can prepare to face them constructively when they inevitably enter your life.


“Head to Foot Reactivity Trigger Model”

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During interactions with other people, what actions, behaviors, attitudes or words prompt you to think negative thoughts about yourself or other people? Do you understand why you react this way in these situations? When did you react this way in your past?





Is there a certain way that people look at you, or look away, that makes you uncomfortable, suspicious or insecure? Describe that look. What does this look touch in your personal background? How do you typically respond? Think about the meaning and social appropriateness of eye contact in different cultures. Are your responses based on your cultural heritage?



Mouth: What words or phrases tend to tap into your personal insecurities, pet peeves or unresolved issues? Is it a phrase like, “You better….” “I told you so.”  “You are wrong.” “That’s interesting.” Or is it a word such as “stupid”, “crazy” or “stubborn”. Is there a way that other people talk that agitates or irritates you? For some people, raised voices or silence raises anxiety. Personally, when people talk on and on, and don’t leave openings for others to speak I am brought back to a time when I was not given a voice. I either get a strong urge to talk over the person, or I start defending other people’s right to be heard.




When do you feel especially sensitive and emotionally vulnerable? Are there certain situations that elicit strong emotion in you? When in the past have you felt this way? What can you do in these situations to help yourself feel safe and protected?




What words, actions, situations or responses make you feel queasy or trigger indigestion? Do you feel a pain in your gut, or a nauseous discomfort? Do you crave comfort food? Does this stir up unresolved issues from earlier in your life?





The way other people move affects us. Are there gestures or other physical movements that tend to raise your anxiety?  Or, does lack of movement stir up a negative reaction in you? Do you understand where these feelings come from in you? When did you react this way in your past?




Do you come from a high contact or a low contact cultural and family background? Contact includes such things as hugs, pats, handshakes, back slaps, gently touching the arm or shoulder and greeting kisses. What happens inside when you are with a person or a group of people who interact in a way that is not familiar to you?




What stirs inappropriate desire in you? Is it a word, a look, a behavior or an action? Or is it certain person, type of person or situation? What makes you more vulnerable to inappropriate attraction or desire? What makes you less vulnerable?




Where other people sit or stand in relation to you can affect how you feel or respond. Often these perceptions are based on cultural identity and heritage. What is the most comfortable distance between you and a business associate? A friend? A family member? What physical or spatial arrangement of people makes you feel more or less respected, valued, powerful, heard? How does this vary for you in different settings: home, work, with friends, in your religious community?




What prompts the urge in you to flea from the room? Can you identify situations or issues from your past that might contribute to this?


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