Respond vs. React

Most of us go through life reacting to our environment. Whether that is our physical surroundings, interactions with other people, or even to ourselves! All of our actions are driven by external influences. You may think you are making a choice when you take an action, but are you really?

Responding is about seeing those external influences, but not letting them make the choice for us in what action we take. Awareness of our environmental influences is essential, reacting to them is not.

In responding to an environmental influence we are aware of it’s impact on us, but we evaluate internally how we choose to act in relationship to it. That may be not acting at all! That too is a response!

To make a response we consider our goals and other influential factors, taking all the time to think we need to consider all alternatives before making a decision on how to respond.

A response comes from an internal blend of thought and emotion. A reaction is purely emotional.

Reacting is can be good in emergency situations–a car accident, a burning building, etc. Where there is a need to act extremely quickly.

Responding is even better as it allows the application of emotion as appropriate, tempered by the thought of what is the complete picture of the situation. Even in the above situations of a car accident or burning building, responding to the situation rather than reacting may save your or another’s life! Applying your knowledge of driving, you may be able to avoid an automobile accident, or in a fire you may prevent the fire from spreading or getting out of a building in a manner you would not normally consider.

Yelling & screaming in either of the above events is reacting… does it help? Responding is what will save your life. In every day life, we may not be dealing with life-threatening events, but the principle is the same.

The more practice you get in responding to daily events, the quicker you will be able to apply the same skill in an emergency situation–avoiding the need to react, while staying calm and helping others to do the same. It will save your life, but on a daily basis, it might save a career or relationship.

Always respond, instead of react.