Reacting and Responding may sound similar, but they are actually very different.   Learn the differences and notice big changes in relationships with your partner, work colleagues, family and friends.

Reacting tends to be emotional and impulsive. It’s something we do. It’s close to an animal like behavior.

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Responding is considering the situation with thought and intelligence, with an awareness of the consequences of whatever action you might take.

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What problems have been created in your life by reacting instead of responding so far? At the extreme, our prisons are chockablock with people that reacted without thinking about the longer term consequences.

Relationships are especially sensitive to reactive behavior. What have you said in the heat of the moment that you later regretted? Imagine how responding effectively could improve you relationships and give you greater happiness and peace.

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Apply the strategies below to ensure that you’re responding and notice how your relationships improve.

1. Notice your Emotions

If you’re in a situation with another person and you notice your emotions starting to flare up,  then you can change your habitual response before its too late.

Simply noticing that you are emotional can be a great help.  However, emotions are much easier to control if you nip them in the bud as soon as you notice them.

2. Step Away

When you notice an emotion such as anger flaring up, step away from the situation and give yourself some breathing space.  In most situations, there is normally plenty of time to think before responding.  Use this time to calm down and clear your head.

3. Breathe

Just the act of breathing deeply and slowly will help you diffuse negative emotions, calm you down and clear your head.

Reacting and Responding

Contrary to popular belief, it is only possible to focus on one thing at a time.  If you focus on breathing and nothing else, then you have no choice but to relax and calm down.  This will take some practice but it can be done.

4. List your options

There are nearly always more ways to deal with something than you think.  You will find that the more relaxed you are, the more options appear. So make a list of all the possible solutions. It requires effort to find the best solution and this is a great way to do it.

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5. Consider the consequences

I’m sure there have been times where you have said something or done something that you have later regretted.  Often this happens because we think short-term.  In today’s instant society, long term thinking is a skill that most of us don’t cultivate enough.

6. We are humans, not animals!

Most animals only know how to react. They don’t have the ability to step back and consider the best course of action. A cat sees a mouse run and chases it without thinking.

As humans, we have the ability to consider all the options. Reacting instantly is rarely a good choice for us humans.  Remember when you react, it’s reflexive. Responding is making a conscious choice.

7. Use emotion to your advantage

When you’re emotional about something, it means that its important or meaningful to you. Therefore listen to your emotions and give them your full attention.


However don’t let strong negative emotions overwhelm you.  They exist to tell you that something is potentially wrong. You should then objectively examine the situation and make a thoughtful decision.

To Sum Up

Reacting too quickly is rarely the best option. Responding appropriately is so important in creating a successful and enjoyable life.

If you’re reacting, make the effort to respond to life’s challenges in a more intelligent and thoughtful manner. It will benefit you more than the other person!

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I hope that these tips will be useful the next time you deal with difficult people at work or at home or in any other aspects of your life.

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