Shooting from the hip… or getting shot in the foot….

Reactions and retorts are common place but how often do they get us into trouble?

I don’t know about you but in certain situations I find I’m more likely to shoot from hip… situations where I don’t necessarily have the full information, the urgent things that need to be sorted now or there’s pressure in a meeting for a response. And in that split second when all eyes are on you to respond you just shoot from the hip.


Now don’t get me wrong, most of the time shooting from the hip and making that snap decisions was absolutely right or right for that moment until there’s time for something more considered. But every now again in the medium and longer term it’s been more like shooting myself in the foot.

I’ve talked before about using head and gut when making decisions and our intuition is what kicks in those situations. And its arguable that although our intuition kicks in when shooting from the hip just sometimes a very short pause before responding will allow us to be more certain that what we’re about to say is the right thing at the right time, and provides the right solution if one is needed.

We process information at a very quick speed, we open and close hundreds of drawers in our mental filing cabinets in nanoseconds, comparing now to previous situations and reviewing what the outcome of that had been. When shooting from the hip we use the limbic brain, which is responsible for all our feelings and human behaviour, and don’t use the neocortex, which governs rational and analytical thinking plus language. And this means we don’t necessarily hear the language being used as we process and as we know the language people use can have many different reasons.

So just taking that short moment to consider before seemingly shooting from the hip allows the rational and analytical thinking to kick in and for us to listen to the language used by replaying what had just been said in our minds.

Allowing both parts of our brain to quickly work on the decision means we won’t overthink something (not that we’re likely to in this type of situation) and conversely it won’t be wholly emotionally led.

Richard Restak, author of The Naked Brain says that gut decisions made with the limbic brain tend to be faster high quality decisions. And that the more time we spend thinking about the decision the greater the risk that it’s the wrong decision that’s made.

But gut instincts aren’t infallible and it is possible to shoot from the hip and shoot ourselves in the foot.

Or maybe it’s that we overrode the gut instinct on some level…

Either way before responding just take a breath and allow both parts of the brain to kick in a little and repeat the question or statement word for word silently. And then answer …

It still may not be perfect every time but there’s less chance of shooting yourself in the foot.

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