React or Respond?

When events happen in your life, are you reacting or are you responding? What is the difference?

Reaction is based on our subconscious patterns and beliefs. Think of it as a “knee-jerk” reaction, one that happens instantly and does not require time to process or evaluate. A reaction is often a habit, and it is automatic. The word react means to act again. If something happens to you and you act again. If you do this often enough, habits form, and you can find that you are stuck behaving in the same way over and over. Most of the time, we go about our days unaware that we are reacting to the events or people in our lives.

For example, you are running late for an appointment, and you run into a traffic jam. Do you always react with anger and frustration?

-When you don’t get invited to a party, do you always feel rejected and left out?

-When your co-workers are gossiping, do you always join in on the negative talk?

Or Do you respond?

Responding is different from reacting because it takes more time, more thought, and more intention. A response creates space. A response considers the other person or other circumstances that may be at play. Responding in communication works to move the conversation forward. It is not defensive. A response invites the other person to clarify what they are trying to say while at the same time creating space for you to try to understand them.

It Takes Work

You first need to recognize your habitual reactions, and that takes work. When you feel stress start to creep into your shoulders or you feel your face start to flush, stop and take inventory of what is going on and if you are reacting. If you are reacting, take note of what is happening. What triggered your reaction? What was the first thought that came to mind? Is there another way that you could be present?

You decide who you want to be.

You have a choice. Do you want to be angry all of the time? Do you want to feel left out and isolated? Do you want to fight with your spouse or your children daily? Your life is your own laboratory, and you can do your own react/respond experiments. You have the power to change and to be present in a new and different way.

Will you React or Respond?

Written By: Christina, Masters Level Intern

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