Reacting Versus Responding – The Difference Matters to You

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

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

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

Successful people respond. Unsuccessful people react.

What about you? Do you think that you mostly 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 is capable of making good decisions, if it actually gives the situation some thought and consideration. Your greatest advantage over other creatures in the world is the ability to think, so use it to your advantage!

    • Reactions are a response designed to increase comfort in the very short term. This is rarely the optimal response, though. A reaction seeks to soothe discomfort without involving the intellect.

2. A reaction is quick. Reactions are often quick, bordering on instantaneous. Quick decisions are rarely as effective as those that were made patiently and carefully. As a general rule, the less time you spend on something, the worse you’ll do it.

3. 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.

4. A reaction is also defensive. You might have an argument with your boss and suddenly decide to quit your job. A reaction like this is to relieve anxiety. Defensive reactions are almost always a huge mistake in the long term.

5. A reaction often creates additional difficulties. Reactions often create additional challenges. When the long term is sacrificed for the short term, there will be pain coming your way.

    • Quitting your job can result in financial challenges. Yelling at your spouse creates relationship troubles. Punching a jerk in the face can land you in prison.

6. A response is intelligent and thoughtful. A response is a wise, productive response to a situation. For example, you recognize that you don’t like your job, so you start looking for a new one. Or, someone insults you, so you decide to avoid them in the future.

    • A response uses your wisdom and considers the ultimate outcome from that course of action.

7. A response takes as much time as necessary. A response isn’t rushed. You consciously decide to 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.

8. A response lacks aggressiveness. A response targets the best outcome. It doesn’t focus on retribution or use anger as a tool. It’s calm, cool, collected, and intelligent. Aggressiveness often lacks logic and intelligence.

9. 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 good 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?

Responding uses the best parts of you to make a decision. Reacting relies on your lower faculties. Avoid reacting in your life. Play it cool and respond instead.


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