Do you respond or react?


Firstly let us consider what the difference is between reacting and responding. The OED does not quite do full justice to the important distinction between these two types of behaviour. The reply can be either verbal or by body language.
Reacting In my understanding, and that of many coaches, reacting is an automatic and unconsidered reply to another person’s comments or behaviour. Whilst this can be natural, maybe because it comes from the unconscious mind, it can sometimes be harmful … because it is unconsidered. Admittedly being natural and being ourselves is a good thing. But our unconsidered reply leaves plenty of room for things to go wrong and may be influenced by our misinterpretation of what the other person did or said, or even by other things on our mind, for example, if we are in a bad mood owing to something unrelated. So, our “reactive” words or behaviour may not help us or the other person.
Responding This is when we consider, even for the briefest period, before we reply (either in behaviour or words). That consideration time, even a second or so, may allow both ourselves and the other person to benefit. Sometimes we need a longer period to reflect. When I had a tricky staff issue to deal with I would often arrange to discuss the issue with the person the next morning, allowing both of us to “sleep on it”.

When and how is it applicable?
Every day I would say! We do not always react badly, but when things go wrong it is often because we have reacted, rather than responded. That is because our reply is better when we respond; we have the chance to do three things:
* We can assess the context of what is happening and get things in the right perspective. How many times have we reacted badly because we misinterpreted what the other person said or did?
* We can consider what is best for the other person
* We can consider what is best for ourselves
We start this shift from reacting to responding by trying to be continually aware of what we do and say, assessing what we do and observing the result. Then it is like trying to change any habit: we need to be clear about our intended change, and stay vigilant, catch ouselves at the key moment and then practise the new habit and so begin to make the shift. The only word of caution I would share, is that trying to respond perfectly all the time may sometimes mean we can bottle up frustration by not saying what we really feel. But even then, a well considered response will still be appropriate.
How could you make use of the points raised above to help yourself in life, work or business? If you would like to chat about how you might be supported in this, simply give me a call.

One final point, a few posts back, I tackled the theme of finding our blind spots. Whilst writing that I became aware of the fact that I had 30 years commercial experience in retail, and yet I had never marketed this fact! Doh! I love retail – from the property location size and footfall, to layout and display, pricing and promotions, exceeding customer expectation by undertanding their needs and experiences, and of course to staff leadership motivation and development … I love it all, and yet I had never mentioned it to promote my Business Coaching and Consultancy. How dumb is that?
Well that was a real blind spot for me. What have you not told the world about?
Best wishes to you   –   Gerard

Copyright Gerard Jakimavicius 2012

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