Learn to Make a Conscious Choice to Respond, Not React

Shandra Martinez

| 3 min read

The Latin root of react is “back, to do, perform.” Acting out at someone or something. Reacting is often quick and emotionally charged, and can occur without much conscious thought or reflection. It may be influenced by past experiences, conditioned responses or the activation of the fight-or-flight response in the face of perceived threats, Jim Taylor, Ph.D., writes in Psychology Today.
In contrast, the Latin root of respond is “back, answer.” You’re responding back to someone or something, usually in words. Responding typically involves a more deliberate and thoughtful approach. It implies taking the time to process information, consider different perspectives and choose a course of action consciously. By learning to respond, you’re likely to experience more positive outcomes in your daily interactions.
Reactions are often based in the moment, are driven by emotion, are often aggressive, and fuel disagreement, triggering psychological responses in the body such as increased heart rate or sweating. A response is a well-thought-out action that may result in a positive outcome.
Control the urge to react by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness involves acceptance and nonjudgmental awareness of present-moment experiences that can help individuals respond rather than react in difficult situations. By pausing and being mindful, individuals can be present with their thoughts and feelings to identify their triggers so they can choose how to respond rather than react, according to the Harvard Gazette. An individual can also practice taking 10 deep breaths to help calm and relax the body to avoid reacting in difficult situations.
Learning to respond empowers you to become a better person. Consider the points below, recommended by coaching-online.org, the next time you need to choose between reacting and responding:
  • Name your emotions. Verbalize them out loud or write them in a journal. This helps your brain realize the situation is temporary.
  • Recognize how your body feels. Pay attention to any physical symptoms you’re having. This helps you in the future to know when you’re being triggered.
  • Use your breath to regain control. Take 10 deep breaths. This helps slow your breathing to a calm rhythm.
  • Ask yourself why you reacted. This helps identify and deal with what triggered you so you can respond, not react.
  • Practice mindfulness regularly. This will help you improve your awareness of your body and brain responses, which will help you respond, not react. While both reacting and responding are natural human tendencies, developing the ability to respond thoughtfully rather than reactively can lead to more positive outcomes in relationships, conflict resolution and decision-making. With practice and self-awareness, individuals can cultivate the skills necessary to respond in a considered and mindful manner.
If you are looking for mediations that will help with mindfulness, consider the 10-minute meditation Conscious Responding and the 16-minute meditation Being Still.

Learn more about the difference between responding and reacting to difficult situations in this Blue Cross Virtual Well-Being℠ webinar, “Learn to Make a Conscious Choice to Respond Not React.” You can also sign up for future employer-focused and individual well-being webinars and meditations here, where you’ll find past webinars and meditations on demand.
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