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After my daughter returned from a recent dining etiquette class, I asked her to debrief me. I really wanted to know what I didn’t know on this topic. She shared with me some new learnings.

For example, how do you remember how to properly set a table? The utensils on the right have 5 letters like the word “right”: spoon and knife. The utensil on the left has 4 letters like the word “left”: fork. I love these simple nuggets – ones I can remember and act on. She continued to share.

Then she asked if I was a thermometer or a thermostat. I thought, temperature discussions around dining? She explained by asking, “In a conversation do you react and elevate the temperature in the room like a thermometer or do you attempt to keep the social climate at room temperature like a thermostat?”

We always have a choice to respond or react. I admit, I can be a strong emotional responder. I have strived to allow my enthusiasm to flow freely when it is a positive response, but try to control my negative responses. I am a work in progress.

Think about the temperature that you set in your interactions. Can you control the heat? The old college psychology equation looks like this S ➞ R. It stands for stimulus and response. The important part of the equation is the arrow. What do you do before you respond?

Here are three thermostat tips that can help you set a positive climate in any environment by responding and not reacting.

  1. Seek first to understand. The very powerful habit noted by the late Stephen Covey. What might have just happened to the person in this situation? Do you understand the place or perspective from which the person is coming?
  2. Take a breath and a minute to pause between the action (words or situations) and your response. Think about your response, don’t just react.
  3. Treat others like family. Think about the person on the other end of the conversation as if they are a special family member. Would you like it if someone responded that way to your dad or son, mother or sister?

Are you a thermometer or a thermostat?

Learn more about building a positive mindset, and specifically, about mastering your emotions in The Power of Positive Coaching.