Responding not Reacting

Impulsive reaction is faster than thoughtful responsiveness.

There are times when this speed of return can be beneficial. This thought-free reaction to a situation is what allows you to come back with a fast quip, avoid danger by intuiting a dangerous situation before it results, or gives you the emotional energy you need to stand up for yourself when you’re being treated badly.

Yet in most situations a bit of thoughtfulness is truly what is called for. So many relationships erode and continue to erode when one person or both begin to react to one another. Mutual reaction tends to lead to escalation; usually away from productive resolution.

Situations where I react:

1. I have unresolved challenges with a particular person, so I am ‘on guard’ when they’re speaking.
2. A sensitive area is being touched upon, typically one where I feel that I have not looked after myself well in the past.
3. I am already in an emotionally triggered space and I carry that into my interactions with someone else.
4. I feel insecure about my place. Sometimes I feel that I am ‘superior’ to someone or ‘inferior’ to them, and I feel that my spot in the hierarchy is being challenged.
5. I feel unvalued, unappreciated, unheard, small.

To move out of reacting one needs to:

1. Stop and take a breath — You don’t need to be rushed.
2. Don’t say the first thing that comes to mind, or the second. The third, after that breath, may be more constructive.
3. Learn to really listen. Listening does not mean absorbing. You can listen, thoughtfully, and make the objective to truly understand what the other person is saying — not try to implement it or resist it.
4. Ask what you need. The more you understand yourself and own your reactions, the more opportunity you have to truly address the core of the issue.
5. Stop worrying about winning, or being on top, centre yourself on your own integrity (the alignment of your thoughts, words, and deeds).

Responsiveness is like beautiful dancing. It is blending and collaborating with the world instead of colliding and working against it.