Respond. Don’t React.

Usually when I think about articles to write, I start with the research.

My articles on happiness stem from research in positive psychology or from reading different philosophies of life.

When I write about money it is based in studies and statistics and calculation.

Today, I want to talk about something that I don’t have research on. Instead, this is something that I have used in my life for years and have found very helpful.

It’s a sort of mantra. A reminder to myself when things get stressful.

Respond. Don’t react.

Responding and Reacting

Responding and reacting are very similar concepts.

An outside force acts upon you. Something unexpected happens. Someone says something mean to you or critical of you. You face unexpected challenges.

Your next move after that is either a response or a reaction.

A reaction is instinctive. It is often instantaneous and it is the move you make without thinking. A car comes flying around the corner and you shove your friend onto the sidewalk.

A response is more calculated. It is a conscious decision. It means that you took at least a moment to think about your options and then made a choice.

While reacting is obviously the better option in life or death situations, responding is more beneficial the rest of the time.

When Reactions Hurt More Than Help

Reacting is in our nature. We survived in the ancient days by instinctively reacting to threats. If you didn’t have strong reactions, you were weeded out of the gene pool.

It is a much less valuable skill in the present world, though. Reactions are necessarily short-term decisions. You are instinctively trying to survive in that moment. You are not thinking of the consequences.

Responding allows you to take a step back and think about the big picture. 

This is especially valuable in relationships. 

Your reaction is all about that one moment. But if you are interacting with another person, you will probably need to interact with them again. Reactions are not intended to maintain strong relationships.

In reacting, we are prone to making comments or taking actions that are hurtful to those around us. Think about arguments with a significant other. When you are just reacting without thinking, you are more likely to say something that will hurt their feelings.

As far as reactions go, this is a success. The other person walked away hurt and you “won” the argument. 

But when we step back and look at the big picture, this isn’t a win at all. We’ve damaged our relationship, hurting both the other person and ourselves.

So how do we respond more and react less?

Respond More. React Less.

For me, it starts with the mantra.

Respond. Don’t react.

Remind yourself of that. Remind yourself of the difference.

This is my shortcut to mindfulness in this little area. It forces you to think about what you’re doing. It helps you catch yourself before you react. It allows you the opportunity to recognize when you are reacting emotionally and need to step back.

If you’re not sure whether you are responding or reacting, take a deep breath. This sounds like trite advice, but it helps. A deep breath allows us to inject a little bit of time, weakening our desire to react strongly. It helps slow our pulse and calm down our emotional side.

So stop. Breathe. Think.

Respond. Don’t react.

9 thoughts on “Respond. Don’t React.”

  1. This is definitely something that I need to work on. I can feel the blood rushing to my face at times when I’m trying to relax and not react. But it’s definitely not something that comes easy. I definitely have to bite my tongue in order to keep calm at times and respond in a measured way. But I still have a lot of improvement to do. Great reminder!!!
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…Lessons From Jerry SeinfeldMy Profile

  2. Responding is much more strategic and proactive than reacting, which is an emotional response. When you respond, you’re in control. When you react, an outside force is controlling you.

    Like Mustard Seed Money, I have to bite my tongue a lot to refrain from being reactive. In my former work life, the fact that I telecommuted and no one could see my face during staff meetings kept me out of trouble.
    Mrs. Groovy recently posted…Picking Up Trash: And Other Cheap Ways of Having FunMy Profile

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