Do You Know The Difference Between Reacting and Responding?

I’m upfront about being a work in progress.

I have a personal trainer to help with my fitness.

I get regular acupuncture, cranioscaral and osteo treatments.

I speak with a business coach.

And every few weeks, I see my therapist for my a little ’emotional health’ tune up. I’ve been journeying with her for about a year now – after my last therapist fell asleep mid-session. For real. Ugh!

The other day, I was telling her about what was going on in my world when she stopped me and asked, “Do you know the difference between reacting and responding? You were reacting there….”

To be honest, I had never really thought about it. Surely they’re the same thing?

“A reaction is instant,” she explained. It’s driven by beliefs, biases and on some level is a defense mechanism. It is based in the moment and sees our emotions take a central role. On the other hand, a response usually comes more slowly. It’s thoughtful, contains reasoning and and is less emotional, more logical.

While they may look alike, reacting and responding feel very different – and after a lifetime littered with rapid-fire, knee-jerk reactions (and the damage control that follows!) this was a massive revelation for me.


How I Learnt to Respond

So, what’s the simplest way I’ve found to respond, rather than react? Pausing. Learning that I don’t have to act immediately, just because I have an internal, emotional reaction. Sometimes that pause is just for a few seconds, other times it means taking a little longer and letting the sting of a reaction go away.

Daily journaling has also been a huge help. Spewing onto a page everything that’s in my head and leaving it to the next day to decide how I actually respond always guarantees a very different…and favourable outcome!

After all, Victor E. Frankl says it perfectly:

Between stimulus and response there is a space. 

In that space is our power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our freedom.


Image by Jasmine Dowling
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