How you react emotionally is a

choice in any situation.

Judith Orloff

Reacting and responding may seem to be synonymous, but that is hardly not the case. Reacting suggests a lack of thought and consideration. It tends to be quick, emotional and impulsive. Responding is taking the time to address a situation thoughtfully with consideration. It is methodical, intelligent and keeps the consequences in mind.

How many challenges have you created in your life by reacting rather than responding? At the extreme, our prisons are full of people that reacted without considering the long-term outcome. Relationships are especially sensitive to this same phenomenon. Have you ever said something to someone in the heat of the moment that you later wished you could take back? Imagine how responding effectively could change your life for the better!

Here are some keys to shifting to reacting instead of responding to life’s situations.

1. Check out your own emotions. Overreaction can be avoided by simply noticing that you are in an emotional state. If you notice the initial circumstances that lead to a poor response, it can be quite easy to nip it in the bud before an even more challenging situation is created. Emotions are much easier to control earlier in the escalation process.

2. Take a Step Back. It is not always enough to say to yourself, “I’m angry.” It is far more effective to think, “I am angry. I should watch my words until I have had some time to process and calm down.” In nearly every situations, there is plenty of time to think before responding. Time is a resource. Use it to your advantage.

3. Breathe! The simple act of focusing on your breath can quickly diffuse your growing emotions. Despite what you may believe, you can only think about one thing at a time. If you are totally focused on your breath, you have to calm down. It takes practice to have the necessary focus in challenging situations, but it can be done.

4. Cut yourself some slack for being a human being. Arguably, most animals are simply reaction machines. They do not have the capability to pause and consider the best course of action. A dog sees a rabbit run and he chases it. You, however, have the option of considering all of the other possibilities available. Reacting quickly rarely results in the best outcome.

  • Most of us cannot run fast. We don’t have claws or fangs. Our brains are our greatest tool and weapon. Think first!!!
  • When you react, it is reflexive. When you respond, you are making a conscious choice.

5. Leverage your emotions. Being emotional about an issue is simply a measure of how meaningful and important it is to you. Give the emotional issues in your life your full attention. However, it is questionable whether strong negative emotions have value beyond this function. Negative emotions exist to inform you that something is potentially wrong. It is then up to you to objectively examine the situation and make a thoughtful decision.

6. What are the options. Sitting down and making a list is almost magical. When you are focused on finding all of the possible solutions, you are much more likely to discover there are some good choices available to you. You are unlikely to find the best solution without making an effort to find it.

7. Weigh the consequences. It is our human nature to think short-term. The frequency of bursting waistlines and low account balances are evidence of this fact. Think further down the road. Saying something unkind might feel good in the moment, but consider having to deal with the aftermath. Quitting your job might relieve your discomfort for today, but what about next month when your bills come due again?

Reacting too quickly is rarely the best option. Responding appropriately is a key factor in creating a successful and enjoyable life. If you are reacting, consider making the effort to respond to the challenges that life offers in a more intelligent and thoughtful manner. You will be glad you did!

To your continued success!!

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