Reacting or Responding

1 Sep 2022 | Coaching, Leadership, Relationships

Step back and see clearly


We’re all human and that means we do what we do, think what we think, feel how we feel and largely to the best of our abilities at any given point in time.


There is something that crops up quite regularly in the modern world for many people, which is largely due to the frenetic level of activity in our lives and that is our reaction to an event or situation.  How often has something happened where you have reacted to it but had an afterthought about your reaction which was regrettable and you wished you had said or done something else, perhaps with greater consideration?  Isn’t hindsight wonderful?


Now I am far from perfect in that regard, but I am increasingly aware of the difference between when I react to something and when I respond to something.  The differences can be subtle, but the outcomes powerfully different. 


If you follow the broad logic of a reaction to an action, then it’s clear to see what creates a reaction to something.  Your reaction (aka behavior) is driven by your attitude which is created through your beliefs and often driven by your life experiences.  To me, this logic seems to operate on autopilot; whatever the thoughts, feelings, behaviors and attitude about a situation that creates your reaction seems to be predetermined and the reflex is natural and instinctive. 


This scenario tends to apply more to situations that involve stress or pressure. Being under stress or pressure has both a physical and psychological effect and these can often be negative.  The body produces cortisol and adrenaline to help an individual cope with stress and pressure, however, having different or even more positive thoughts that are applied at the same time can counteract and provide a more balanced reaction.  What would happen if you introduced a layer of consciousness into this process, where you were aware of your reaction options and presented yourself with a chance to reframe your thoughts and feelings prior to your natural or normal reaction?  Now this doesn’t work in every eventuality; for example, if you stub your toe on the corner of the coffee table, then it’s likely that you will have an immediate reaction to that, which is probably not going to be positive!!!


There are many instances and circumstances that we find ourselves in in our day-to-day lives where a considered response versus an automatic reaction may just serve us better.  The art of re-framing requires a wider perspective to be presented with any particular situation and below are a few of my tips on how to respond as opposed to react.  In my experience there is always more than one answer and by digging a bit deeper and pausing our natural reflexes, I have found the outcomes to situations end up being better and more positive than normal.  This in turn serves me well and enables me to be more fulfilled, purposeful and positive. 


  1. In any situation that could stir a reaction, find a way to pause, take a big breath and consider if what you are about to do is responding or reacting and if you do something different, is there a better outcome to be had.
  2. Design a metaphorical and imaginary pair of glasses or piece of apparel which you can call positive and optimistic and try visualizing yourself wearing it occasionally.
  3. Create a set of ‘personal diversion triggers’ that interrupt your normal response and force you to pause and reflect.
  4. Find an empowering question to ask yourself continually. An example could be “what’s another way of looking at that?”
  5. Become curious; always consider “what else….?”
  6. Ask yourself “what outcome would I like to see/feel/hear or experience?”
  7. Consider if your normal response is going to serve you best
  8. Is your reaction going to cause you any discomfort or any additional stress or pressure?
  9. Reflect on your last reaction to a similar situation and think if there was a better way to have dealt with it; what did you learn?
  10. How different could the outcome be if you thought differently about your proposed response?


In any event just do what feels right for you in the moment, but importantly be consciously aware of your reaction or your response.

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