Learning to Respond rather than React

You already know that the number one rule for becoming a better person and making your dreams come true is “self-awareness”…… You have to observe yourself and become consciously aware of your actions and thoughts before you can analyze and decide whether or not these actions/thoughts are serving you, or if they need to be changed….. Self-awareness is definitely the first step to greatness! … Nothing will ever happen without it!

Keeping this in mind, I would like to invite you to observe your reactions and your responses.

At any given point in our lives, we are either responding or reacting… and there are consequences to each.

You are probably wondering what I mean by reactions and responses…. Think about it for a minute and consider this:

A response is an act of freedom, an opportunity to act with a sense of responsibility, a carefully thought-through process which focuses on dealing with a situation. A response has a lot of power, it can easily turn a situation to your advantage and help you reach your goals.

A reaction is an automated emotional response to a trigger. This trigger comes from your beliefs, your values, your past…. Essentially, a reaction is a thoughtless automated response to a similar situation that happened to you in the past. It can often perpetuate a problem, or exaggerate an event.

The difference between the two???? You “Have” a reaction…. But you “Make” a response…. The reaction is involuntary….. The response is a conscious choice. When you react you have no power, when you respond you are in control.

Don’t get me wrong, reactions are not always negative. As humans, we have a tendency to be a little robotic, and sometimes, it’s a good thing. For example, your alarm goes off in the morning, you react by getting up and do whatever it is you do in the morning….. You sit in your car and you automatically turn on the engine and make your way to work…..  You don’t have to think about it at all…. You may even arrive at work and realize most of the journey wasn’t a conscious effort, your mind was somewhere else…. a lot of our reactions are serving us well. We create patterns and routines that work for us and keep us happy and safe.

However, some of our reactions/patterns do not serve us well, they are destructive and do not support the kind of life we wish to lead or the kind of relationships we wish to have.

Do you often have to apologize to others for your actions or words? Do you tend to assume the worst about people and situations? Do you withdraw when things get emotionally overwhelming?

Some of you trying to stay healthy may go back to comfort food every time you face an upsetting situation making it difficult to ever reach your goal….. Some of you may find it difficult to trust your partner and over react whenever exposed to the outside world, making it impossible to maintain a healthy relationship… You may have snapped at someone you love for a silly reason projecting on them a day worth of frustration at work…..

I for one know that I tend to have very limited patience and understanding when I’m exhausted or hungry…. We all have triggers that get in our way…. Often, the intensity of our reaction will vary greatly depending on how much it affected us, how long we have kept it inside or how important it might be to us.

Think about the last time you overreacted or mis-reacted to something. Can you pinpoint the trigger? What were the consequences of your reaction? Do you think you could have prevented it?

 Learning to respond rather than react, can make a tremendous positive difference in your life…. All it takes is a little bit of self-awareness and a little bit of practice.

How?…  The first step is easy:  Consciously delay the reaction by a few seconds/minutes/hours etc.

For example:

  •  Take a deep breath…. It will calm your heart rate and will buy you a few seconds to turn your reaction into a response
  • Ask yourself a few simple questions “Am I about to overreact?” “Why is this situation bothering me so much?”, “Is there anything I can do about it?”, “What would be the best way to respond to this situation?”, “Am I reacting to this situation or am I reacting to a similar situation which happened to me in the past?”
  • If you were about to react by email/text, make the conscious decision to respond a little later and get busy with something else…. When you are no longer so emotional about it, go back to writing
  • If you were about to react face to face with someone else, it’s probably a good time to take a deep breath and ask this person additional information, or tell them you will get back to them later… it will buy you some time to get your thoughts together

 Delaying your reaction will instantly create an opportunity to make a powerful and effective response which will positively affect your day and your life…..

Again, all it takes is a little self-awareness and a little practice.

Of course, the second step will be to make an impactful response, a response that will serve its purpose and drive you forward. I trust that if you take the time to truly consider your options, you will know what the right thing to do is…..  If in doubt, why not ask for help/advise from someone you trust? People with no emotional attachments to your current situation will be able to give you a rational and reasonable point of view.

Being emotional is perfectly ok…. But learning to control these emotions so they don’t turn back on you… that’s very powerful!

And if you miss out on an opportunity to respond and happen to let yourself react, don’t beat yourself up….It happens to the best of us! …. Simply acknowledge it, try to understand the trigger, and commit to doing better next time 🙂


Emeline Omont / Founder, MomentuM Coaching & Consulting

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