I’ve been thinking about posting my article, Reaction vs Response, for some time now. I think it’s something that a lot of people are totally unaware they’re doing on a day-to-day basis within the course of their lives.
By Reaction vs. Response, I’m talking about the discourse between two people either within the workplace environment, during social interaction or the day-to-day strangers we come across during our daily routines such as shopping, working out, etc.
A reaction is where someone reacts (usually in a negative manner) towards a situation, question or statement from another person. This differs greatly from a mere, thought-out response and there within lies the RUB… People that react are usually on the defensive for a multitude number of reasons and have absolutely no clue that they’re doing something wrong. Yes, I’m labeling REACTION (in this instance) as the wrong thing to do.
And it is…
As a New Yorker, I’ve noticed this in myself. I lived about an hour & a half outside of New York City, so that doesn’t geographically qualify my statement, but regardless…I’ve probably been in NYC more than my own hometown & I’m definitely as street-smart, if not more-so, than the average New Yawker. So…I’d say that experience (although a positive one on the whole) has definitely curated my defensive character. And if I’m being honest, it’s probably a combination of NYC mindfulness & growing up as a fat child. Read more about that–––––>HERE.
When we react to a situation we’re doing a disservice not only to the person we’re reacting upon, but to ourselves. First, we’re shutting down our ears & not listening because we are seeing RED & defending ourselves. Secondly, while we’re reacting with the defensive, it usually comes out pretty loud or hostile. And when this happens, we strip ourselves of the power of credibility. When you start yelling or shouting at someone, do you really think they’re listening?
No… They’re too busy putting together a crafty, witty Reaction in rebuttal to your Reaction. And like a broken record, this process repeats itself—never garnering any real resolve. It only helps build & solidify a hatred towards one another. The sad part about this never-ending, vicious cycle is that more than half of the time this occurs the original question, comment or situation stemmed from innocence in nature. And whether it did or not, it really doesn’t matter. A negative reaction to a negative reaction only resolves in more negativity. It never solves anything.
Responding, on the other hand, is the bridge to communication. By responding, first, we’ve taken the time to really listen (analyze) the question, comment or situation. And secondly, within this time you’ve allowed yourself to remain calm (so you don’t see RED & react) and given yourself the needed moment to think about a viable response. Since you’ve properly thought it through, the haze of anger hasn’t clouded your judgement. What at first seemed like a dig, hurtful action or statement, doesn’t gain the unnecessary power to fuel a reaction and you realize the instance was born out of innocence.
Even if the circumstances were not of an innocent nature (and I can almost feel you nodding vigorously at my words on your screen) responding will get you far more honey, than reacting ever will. I know far-too many people (a few in my family) that just love to light a fire and watch the reaction. These people usually lead lonely lives that they fill up with materialistic things they put on display on Facebook, Instagram, etc.
Do you really want to be the fuel that feeds these people’s entertainment?
By responding to their reactions, we’ve now taken them off guard and possibly off the defensive. In either case, it will give them pause to rethink what they’ve just said. Responding to a reaction is a pure method of putting out a fire before it ever begins.
A lifetime of living this cycle has unfortunately embedded this REACTION process firmly into our DNA. So, how do we change this? Good question. There are probably a BA-GILLION ways, but I can only tell you what works for me & really all I know on how to stop reacting towards people:
- PAUSE–––this is IMPORTANT. If you don’t catch yourself before the old trap opens up, your brain won’t have the proper time to digest the information.
- REFLECT… Maintain breathing at a slow, deliberate pace, like meditation, which I discuss more about HERE. It will give you time to reflect on the situation. Focus on the ins/outs of your breaths. Reset your sympathetic nervous system by taking one, very deep breath, holding it for few seconds, then slowly letting it out for roughly eight seconds. This will calm you down. Read the link on the sympathetic nervous system, it’s very interesting. It may seem like a long pause to a question or situation, but with enough practice it gets quicker & easier and the need becomes less. And just think how you’ll take the other person off guard even more!
- RESPOND… Given those few extra seconds, your emotions will get back in check and logic will kick in and you’ll be able to craft a proper response.
I’D LIKE TO REMIND YOU THAT ROME wasn’t built in a day and neither will the reformation of your thought processes be any different. Most of us have behaved this way all our lives. It’s like learning to write with your left hand when you’re right-handed. It will take practice. I’d also like to leave you with another tidbit of useful information that I learned from my handsome partner, Paul. It takes 21 days to form or break a habit. I reflect upon this every time I need to correct or amend something I’ve been doing, such as putting two spaces after a period in a sentence. I learned how to type on an old, electronic typewriter during a time before word processors. I never knew the true reasoning until an awesome writer friend of mine, Rebecca Cantrell, duly informed me. She’s co-authored with James Rollins (another fave) and she just released a new letter-book series with Sean Black. OH— and her latest work, The Tesla series, is unique, thrilling & quite ingenious! It’s also one of my favorites! Can you tell? Please check her out…she’s awesome!
So, I implore you to work on RESPONDING VS REACTING. I promise…your life & interactions will be better because of the efforts!