responding vs reacting

Breathe Deeply, Then Respond

Reply. React. Respond. Many times, these words are used interchangeably for how someone answers. Let’s glance at their definitions. 

Reply: to answer. 

Respond:say something in reply. 

React: respond or behave in a particular way in response to something. 

Consider this situation. A co-worker that has a reputation for being nosey is trying to see something on your desk. In the process, they knock your just purchased cup of coffee on the floor. Do you angrily snap at them or do you do something different? 

There are many people that react to any kind of obstacle, setback, or challenge. Reactions are reflexive, ego-driven, and only consider the short-term outcome. Reacting may make you feel better, but don’t resolve an issue effectively. 

Responding is different. It’s intelligent, practical, and considers the long-term implications of that course of action. Taking a moment to breathe, then think. Do you recognize this as practicing mindfulness?


Photo by Keegan Houser from Pexels

People that react struggle and are known for making impulsive decisions. Those that respond have fewer struggles in life. As it turns out, the biggest hassles in life are usually of your own making. 

Let’s consider an example that highlights the differences between reacting and responding: 

Imagine that you have a horrible boss. Today at work, he berates you for something that isn’t your fault. He calls you a mean name. He says that you’re a worthless employee. You leave work enraged and convinced that you can’t take it anymore. 

Reacting to this situation might entail quitting in a blaze of glory. You march in the next day and tell him exactly what you think of him. You might even spit in his eye, stomp on his foot, and shove your resignation letter into his mouth. However, when you get home, you realize that the job market is tight; you have no savings, and no employment prospects. 

 Responding to this situation might look something like this: You determine you need to find another job. You work on your resume. You put out feelers to everyone you know that have or know of a position that’s suitable for you. You get in touch with a recruiter and let them know that you’re looking. You also cut back on your expenses and save some money just in case you lose your job. 

One of these options is short-sighted and risky. The other is thoughtful and logical. One is likely to end in misery, while the other is likely to end in success. 

 How can you strengthen your odds of success when challenges arise?


Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Following this process will help you respond rather than react

  •  Steady yourself. It’s hard to be intelligent, logical, and practical when your emotions are high. Never make an important decision when you’re not calm. Take the time you need. Mull it over. Consider your options. 
  •  Identify the problem. What is the issue that you need to resolve? Think about what you want to change. Avoid changing a bunch of other things that may have a negative impact on your life. In the example above, you’d get away from your boss, but drastically change your income, too. 
  •  Be clear on the outcome you desire. It’s just as important to consider the outcome you desire. You might hate your job, but you don’t just want to get away from it. You’ll want a good landing place, too. 
  •  Make an intelligent plan. Create a plan that resolves your issue and gives you the outcome you desire. Reacting only removes the initial problem. It doesn’t provide a great outcome. A good plan does both.
  • Execute that plan. Use your plan. There are many people that are great at making plans, but never execute them. You don’t want to be one of those people. Put your plan to the test and see what happens.

If you’re someone that reacts to the challenges in your life, you already know the additional challenges it can bring. It’s the perfect example of “out of the frying pan and into the fire.” 

 Avoid making decisions when you’re upset. Calm yourself first. Then make an intelligent decision that will remove that challenge from your life in a way that leaves you better than you started. Life is much easier this way. 

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  • Angel Lewis

    Hello there! I'm Angel, an entrepreneur and writer who grew up in rural North Carolina and now resides in Virginia. My love for writing began during my time at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC. Over the past couple of years, I've authored two nonfiction books in the personal development genre. Along with writing for adults, I also created 'Ready. Set. Fly!', a children's book that inspires self-confidence and resilience. When I'm not writing, I enjoy gardening, reading, playing games, and spending time with those closest to me.

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