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Reacting Versus Responding – Understanding the Difference is Important

Photo by Jackson David from Pexels

Do you react or respond? It might seem like splitting hairs, but there is a vast difference between reacting and responding.

Learn the difference and why it matters so much. Changing the tendency to react will lead to an easier and more successful life.

Reacting is a spontaneous reaction driven by emotions. A response is a more thoughtful, logical, and intelligent response. In a nutshell, that is the difference.

Successful people respond. Unsuccessful people react.

What about you? Are you more likely to react or respond? Let’s find out.

Consider these differences:

  1. A reaction lacks thought. Reactions are instinctive and lack any thought or analysis. Your brain can make excellent decisions, if you give the situation thought and consideration. Your greatest advantage over other creatures in the world is the ability to think. Use it to your advantage!
  2. Reactions are a response designed to increase comfort in the brief term. This is rarely the optimal response, though. A reaction seeks to soothe discomfort without involving the intellect.
  3. A reaction is quick. Reactions are often quick, bordering on instantaneous. Quick decisions are rarely as effective as those made patiently and carefully. As a general rule, the less time you spend on something, the worse you’ll do it.
  4. A reaction is aggressive. Reactions are often counterstrikes to an uncomfortable situation. For example, you might make a harsh comment to someone that hurt your feelings. The intention of many reactions is to get back at someone.
  5. A reaction is also defensive. You might have an argument with your boss and suddenly quit your job. A reaction like this is to relieve anxiety. Defensive reactions are almost always a mistake in the long term.
    • Quitting your job can cause financial challenges.
    • Yelling at your spouse creates relationship troubles.
    • Punching someone in the face can land you in jail
  6. A reaction often creates additional difficulties. Reactions often create additional challenges. When you sacrifice the long term for the short term, there will be pain coming your way.
  7. A response is intelligent and thoughtful. A response is a wise, productive approach to a situation. For example, you recognize that you don’t like your job, so you look for a new one. However, you don’t react by walking out until you have a new job and provide a two-week’s notice to the one you’re leaving. A response uses your wisdom and considers the ultimate outcome from the chosen course of action.
  8. A response takes as much time as necessary. You do not rush a response. You consciously take the time necessary to make a smart decision. Why rush if you don’t have to? The more thought you give the situation, the more likely you are to respond effectively.
  9. A response lacks aggressiveness. A response targets the best outcome. It does not focus on retribution or use anger as a tool. It is calm, collected, and intelligent. Aggressiveness often lacks logic and intelligence.
  10. A response is constructive and seeks a solution. Responses are solution-oriented and seek to improve the situation. Reactions don’t have the same purpose. Your life should be better after a thought out response. Your life is likely to be worse after a reaction.

So, do you react or respond in life? Can you see how responding is the better option in most situations? Consider the biggest mistakes you’ve made in your life. Did a reaction, instead of a response, lead to making that mistake?

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