Reacting vs Responding

A reaction is instant, it is survival-oriented and is a defence mechanism, it comes from our reptilian brain, which is good in a crisis, we just don’t want it running the show. Reactions are emotionally charged and leave us unable to hear what the other person is trying to convey. Reacting is dis-empowering.

Responding takes into consideration when, how and what is being said, and a response is generally thoughtful and clearly articulated. Responses are not usually those things that we “shoot from the hip,” they come from a willingness to respect difference while maintaining our own integrity and remaining congruent. Responding is empowering.

When people recognise the damage impulsive reacting causes, and start to deliberately formulate thoughtful responses, their interactions begin to reflect a higher degree of emotional intelligence. As a result, they live with much less anger, regret and shame, greatly diminishing the need to constantly repair damage caused to their relationships. 

The difference between responding and reacting is the difference between regret and self-empowerment. a response can take a few moments to formulate; allowing yourself to take a few breaths is generally enough time to start responding and stop reacting. Those few moments allow you to engage the neo cortex, responsible for executive function, reasoning, creativity, imagination, problem-solving and thriving, and bypass the reptilian brain, responsible for fight or flight and surviving.

As with all new behaviours, time, practice and patience are the three essential ingredients. Know that it can take 3 months to learn a new behaviour. Practice; take set-backs in your stride, in fact, they help build resilience. Patience; show yourself some loving kindness, because you deserve to shine