Winning Words

Opinion: Decaffeinate and de-escalate

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On any given day I will usually have one or two cups of coffee in the morning. On those days where I have three or four, I feel a very palpable difference … I am wired. I also notice that I am a bit more anxious and a lot more impatient.

For me, I cannot drink coffee at night for this very reason. I would be up all night. We all respond differently to caffeine, some get wired like I do, and others can drink coffee all day without losing the ability to fall asleep at night.

As I look around at what is happening in our country and around the world, I feel like maybe, just maybe there are way too many over-caffeinated people out there. Violent crimes, verbal attacks, road rage, stadium brawls, random acts of violence and other assaults on humanity are occurring with greater frequency, and in some cases, an all-time high.

I am not a clinical expert, but anxiousness, fear, doubt and worry seem to be at an all-time high as well. It's like we are going to our favorite coffee shop asking for a double shot of impatience with extra anxiety. Or we are making our own coffee at home, maybe the double espresso anger brew with some steamed “Hurray for me and the heck with you” creamer.

And that's just the coffee version. For others it may be the caffeinated soda we drink or the highly caffeinated beverages we consume. Would we like a large or super-size cup of revenge with that burger and fries? And if we really need a jolt, maybe we pick up a shot of the five-hour hostility, you know that little bottle with a kick in it.

What could possibly be going on at a baseball game that could stir such hatred amongst the fans? And are we talking about the fans at the World Series, or parents at a Little League baseball game? Are we coming together to enjoy the great American pastime, “baseball, hot dogs and animosity pie?”

I am not sure about you, but I am seeing more and more road rage on our streets. Offended drivers attacking one another, flipping each other off, riding so close on the other one's bumper to try an intimidate them. It's like they look down and see that their bitterness tank is full, and they feel compelled to try and empty it.

Wouldn't it be better to attend a game and get an order of nachos with a side of jalapenos and good sportsmanship? Or perhaps drive-thru at our favorite coffee house and ask for an iced latte with a double shot of kindness. Maybe we can look down at the gauges on our dashboard and see that our gentleness needle is right where it is supposed to be as we just let others drive on by, even letting them get in front of us.

Did you ever notice that when you scream or yell or threaten others that they now pay attention to you? No, of course you haven't because that never happens. What does happen is that the other person usually does one of two things, they shut down or they stand up and fight back. And in either case, nothing gets resolved. Instead, there is just lots of shoving, pushing, name-calling, brain damage and heartache.

Look, caffeine is certainly not the problem, it was simply used for illustrative purposes. But we are acting out in ways that would suggest that we could all use a little decaf right now. A super-size decaf with two packets of “I love you” and some extra forgiveness while we refuel our hearts with understanding and patience.

Isn't it time to pause and take a bit of the edge off? Are we sweating the small stuff, the big stuff and everything in between? I would love to hear your thoughts and your story at mnorton@tramazing.com, and remember that when we decaffeinate, we are more likely to deescalate, and then it really will be a better than good year.

Michael Norton is the grateful CEO of Tramazing.com, a personal and professional coach, and a consultant, trainer, encourager and motivator to businesses of all sizes.

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