The Difference Between Reacting and Responding
In this article, I will cover the crucial difference between reacting and responding. Once you know this and apply it to your life, your relationships with other people will improve immensely.
When you know the key difference between reacting and responding, you can deal calmly with other people, even the drama queens in your life!
When I learned the important difference between reacting and responding, several things changed in my life. I had far fewer arguments. I was able to take a step back and consider all the possible options. Situations where I would say something that I regretted later became less and less.
Keep reading to learn how to respond instead of react and notice your relationships with others improve dramatically.
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Reacting and Responding may sound similar, but they are very different. Learn the differences and notice big changes in relationships with your partner, work colleagues, family, and friends.
Reacting tends to be emotional and impulsive. It’s something we do instinctively. It’s close to an animal-like behavior.
Responding is considering the situation with thought and intelligence. It’s having an awareness of the consequences of any action you might take.
What problems have been created in your life by reacting instead of responding so far? At the extreme, our prisons are chockablock with people that reacted. People that acted without thinking about the longer-term consequences.
Relationships are especially sensitive to reactive behavior. What have you said in the heat of the moment that you later regretted? Imagine how responding effectively could improve your relationships and give you greater happiness and peace.
Apply the strategies below to ensure that you’re responding and notice how your relationships improve.
1. Notice your Emotions
When you are with another person, notice any emotions that flare up, especially the negative ones. Having an awareness of your emotional state in these situations is an important first step. Why? because it gives you the ability to choose to respond differently before the emotions get too high.
It allows you to nip these emotions in the bud as soon as you notice them and then behave differently. It’s so important to do this before the emotions get too strong or intense. If you don’t, it’s very easy to act instinctively and in the same way that you acted before. This happens because blood flows away from the logical thinking part of the brain (the pre-frontal cortex) to the emotional brain (the amygdala).
2. Step Away
When you notice an emotion such as anger flaring up, step away from the situation if you can. This will give you some breathing space, even if it is just for a few seconds. Use this time to analyze the situation and see it more objectively. It will also help you calm down and clear your head. A great thing to do during this time is my rapid relaxation exercise.
3. List Your Options
There are nearly always more ways to deal with something than you think. You will find that the more relaxed you are, the more options appear. This is why if you can step away from the situation first that will always help.
Now ask yourself, what are the other ways that I could deal with this? What are the other ways that I could respond to this situation? There are often more ways than you previously thought. You just needed the mental space to find them.
Just the act of breathing deeply and slowly will help you diffuse negative emotions, calm you down and clear your head. Contrary to popular belief, your mind can only focus on one thing at a time. If you focus on breathing and nothing else, then you have no choice but to relax and calm down. This will take some practice but it can be done.
When you take long, slow, deep breaths, you reduce the hormone cortisol in your body by up to 70%. That’s great for relieving stress. When you’re relaxed, you will naturally respond to other people in a level-headed way.
5. Consider the Consequences
I’m sure there have been times where you have said something or done something that you have later regretted. If you can consider the consequences before acting, then you will act differently. This will then save you and the other person the pain of the old negative behavior. This will be much better for the relationship in the long-term.
Relationship conflicts can also arise when you think and act with a short-term view. In today’s instant society, we often focus on short term goals and outcomes. However, we often ignore the longer-term impact that this might have on our relationships.
Most people don’t think about the long-term effect of their behavior on others. So if you can do this, you’re immediately going to stand out from the crowd and have much better relationships with other people. You’ll develop great relationships built on trust and respect and you will have a more peaceful and happier life as well.
6. We are Humans, not Animals!
Animals only know how to react. They can’t step back and determine the best course of action like we can. If a cat sees a mouse, it will chase it without thinking. If a mouse sees a cat, it instinctively runs away.
Reacting instantly, automatically and unconsciously is rarely a good choice for us, unless it’s a life or death situation.
As humans, we can consider all the options and then make a conscious choice in how to respond. This will come with practice. Once you start responding to situations rather than reacting, it will begin to feel more familiar and automatic.
In stressful situations, it can be very easy to switch back into reacting. So remember to just take a step back and respond rather than doing that old reacting behavior.
7. Use Emotion to Your Advantage
When you are emotional about something, it means that its important or meaningful to you. It means that you care. So feeling emotional is a good thing, as long as it doesn’t lead to actions that could harm others or cause you to say or do something that you later regret.
Therefore listen to your emotions and give them your full attention. However, don’t let strong negative emotions overwhelm you. They are there to give you a message. They exist to tell you that something is potentially wrong. So examine the situation objectively and then make a new considered decision and take a different course of action.
To Sum Up
Reacting too quickly is rarely the best option. Responding appropriately is so important in creating a successful and enjoyable life.
If you’re reacting, make the effort to respond to life’s challenges more intelligently and thoughtfully. It will benefit you more than the other person!
I hope these tips will help you when you next deal with difficult people at work or at home or in any other area of your life.
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