Responding vs. Reacting



“Speak when you are angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”
Laurence J. Peter

When people react, it seems to be defensive. Responding, on the other hand, is more thoughtful.

Responses contain reasoning. When faced with conflict, the need to defend ourselves creates opportunities to react, instinctively and at times, negatively. Our personal relationships can be challenged and we can behave in ways we are not always proud of.

There is a downside to reacting. We let emotions without reason drive us forward. We lose control. Reacting is sporadic and emotional.

On the other hand there is respond. There is still an external spur to our response. Responding, though, is more thoughtful. Responses contain reasoning, guided less by emotion and more by logic.

The benefits of response is an engaging conversation, positive and civil. We learn. We grow. We listen. We act forthrightly and from within.

Reacting is instinctive. Responding is a conscious choice. When something happens, our body is going to react automatically. The trick is to become aware of this initial reaction, resist doing anything, involve your higher intelligence by considering options, possible ramifications, who you want to be, and what is going to be in your best interest, and, then, choose how to respond.

In the article, Responding vs. Reacting by J. Loeks explains:

‘The act of responding requires one to look at the circumstance, identify the problem or situation, hear what is happening and reflect. That reflection can be for a moment, five seconds, one hour, two days or longer. The time frame doesn’t matter. What matters is that you stopped and put an effort to think and suspended judgment. It is a conscious act and shows that you are willing to listen or observe. This ‘gap’ between the circumstance and your behavior is what contributes to gaining a sense of control in your life. Once a person can identify that in responding they actually have a choice in the manner, he/she will start to realize that they are able to make better decisions. The key is that pause. If the situation requires an immediate action, then just take a deep breath first. This alone can help one gain a semblance of control and make one choose an alternative statement or action that can make a big difference in an outcome of a situation.’

Learning to respond rather than react takes time and practice, but the results make a tremendous positive difference in our life.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Victor Frankl


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