Are you Reacting or Responding?

Reacting and responding might appear to be synonymous, but that’s not the case. Reacting suggests a lack of thought and consideration. It’s emotional and impulsive. Responding is addressing the situation thoughtfully with consideration. It’s intelligent and keeps the consequences in mind.

How many challenges have you created in your life by reacting instead of responding? At the extreme, our prisons are full of people that reacted without considering the long-term outcome. Relationships are especially sensitive to this same phenomenon. Have you ever said something in the heat of the moment that you later wished you could take back?

Imagine how responding effectively could change your life for the better!

Follow these strategies to ensure that you’re responding:

1. Learn to notice your emotions. Overreaction can be avoided by simply noticing that you’re emotional. If you notice the initial circumstances that lead to a poor response, it can be quite easy to nip it in the bud before an even more challenging situation is created.

* Emotions are much easier to control earlier in the escalation process.

2. Step away. It’s not enough to say to yourself, “I’m angry.” It’s far more effective to think, “I’m angry. I should watch my words until I’ve had time to process and calm down.”

* In nearly all situations, there’s plenty of time to think before responding. Time is a resource. Use it to your advantage.

3. If you find yourself reacting, breathe. The simple act of focusing on your breath can quickly diffuse your growing emotions. Despite what you might believe, you can only think about one thing at a time. If you’re truly focused on your breath, you have to calm down. It takes practice to have the necessary focus in challenging situations, but it can be done.

4. Recognize the gift of being a human being. Arguably, most animals are simply reaction machines. They don’t have the capability to pause and consider the best course of action. A dog sees a rabbit run and he chases it. You have the option of considering all the possibilities. Reacting quickly rarely results in the best outcome.

* We can’t run fast. We don’t have claws or fangs. Our brains are our greatest tool and weapon. Think first.

* When you react, it’s reflexive. When you respond, you’re making a conscious choice.

5. Use emotion to your advantage. Being emotional about an issue is simply a measure of how meaningful it is to you. Give the emotional issues in your life your full attention. However, it’s questionable that strong negative emotions have value beyond this function. Negative emotions exist to inform you that something is potentially wrong.

* It’s then up to you to objectively examine the situation and make a thoughtful decision.

6. List your options. Sitting down and making a list is almost magical. When you’re focused on finding all the possible solutions, you’re likely to discover there are some good choices available to you. You’re unlikely to find the best solution without making an effort to find it.

7. Consider the consequences. It’s human nature to think short-term. The frequency of bursting waistlines and low account balances are evidence of this fact. Think further down the road.

* Saying something unkind might feel good in the moment, but consider having to deal with the aftermath. Quitting your job might relieve your discomfort today, but what about next month?

Reacting too quickly is rarely the best option. Responding appropriately is a key factor in creating a successful and enjoyable life. If you’re reacting, consider making the effort to respond to life’s challenges in a more intelligent and thoughtful manner. You’ll be glad you did!

Glen Murdoch

Glen Murdoch is the founder and CEO of The Life Coaching College. He has a long history of working with Athletes and Teams as a Performance Coach and Analyst and has developed Australia's number 1 Life Coaching College.