Learning how to respond to a situation rather than just reacting to it brings huge rewards. Needless to say, it is one of those behaviour changes that are easier said than done. However it can be achieved.
Responding to something means you will have taken some time to consider the situation and which response best suits you. To be able to ‘respond’ means you are choosing your behaviour based on your values, needs, integrity and desires. To ‘react’ means you have chosen to allow outside influences dictate your behaviour and tend to leave you at the mercy of others.
The gifts you give yourself when you stop the knee-jerk type of reacting are a sense of strength, achievement, power to influence, calmness plus an increase in your self-esteem. The rewards will be felt not only in your private life, but also at work. Time and patience will be necessary and making mistakes during this ‘reprogramming’ time should be expected and allowed.
Different kinds of ‘reactions’
- The damage that can result from spontaneous reactions sometimes cannot be undone, e.g., in situations where a good first impression is crucial. During a job interview, an overreaction or reacting without consideration can result in not getting called back for a second interview.
- There also are reactions that fall under the heading of “the best defense is a good offense.” If you get triggered, you might react defensively. The outcome of an offensive reaction is rarely what you would like it to be.
- Some people create situations in which they can react — the bigger, louder and more dramatic the better. These are people who thrive on chaos. This kind of dramatic reaction allows them to control the situation. In this case, it is best to walk away.
- In emergency or life and death situation, your instinctual reactions serve you well. These are not the reactions I am referring to here.
Everybody has certain relationships or situations, which bring out the worst reactions or overreactions. Being busy and stressed can magnify a reaction. In contrast, when you are relaxed, you are better able to take time to assess the options and possible responses to achieve your desired result.
Many reactions come from your upbringing, experiences, assumptions and beliefs that are limiting. One of the responsibilities of being an adult is to recognize that you have the power to change. Introspection, personal growth and personal development work will help give you a better understanding of where triggers might come from and specifically what might set them off.
It is possible with the support and encouragement of a coach or other professional to decondition yourself from habitual reactions to people and situations. ‘Debugging and reprogramming our software’ is a wonderful gift to yourself.
8 Tips to help you learn how to stop reacting and start responding:
- Commit to making this change in your behaviour. Accept that it will take time and require some patience until you get that hang of it.
- Start noticing the things that you react to. This could include engaging in a certain type of conversation, being with a particular person or being ignored or interrupted.
- Get to know what specifically triggers a reaction in you. What about the tone of voice, the chosen words, the message or body language pushes that button in you?
- Once you have familiarized yourself with the triggers, imagine how it would be/look if you handled it in a different manner than usual.
- Now think about what the possible options are in the moment when your trigger goes off. How can you buy yourself some to avoid reacting? Is it possible to leave the room, ask the person to call you back later, take some deep breaths, find the self respect to say “I will get back to you on that?”
- Imagine a situation in the future when you have a handle on this. How would you feel? Who would you be?
- Get to know this feeling. It will encourage and motivate you.
- Make a list, if only a mental one, of the steps you plan on taking to stop yourself from reacting.
In summary, by learning how to respond rather than react you are giving yourself:
- Choice– having taken the time to reflect upon the situation you tend to have more options to choose from than just the one, which was a ‘reaction.’
- Power– you keep your personal power by taking the best possible care of yourself by not reacting, and waiting until you can respond constructively. This makes you feel strong.
- Less Stress– buying some time to make a constructive choice you avoid exhausting the emotions otherwise present in a reaction that are draining.
- Calm– Knowing that you can handle situations that in the past have pushed your buttons brings a calm, an inner peace into your life.
- Increased Self Esteem– another step up the ladder with this added new tool in your personal growth and development automatically increases your self esteem.
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it”
Charles R. Swindoll