Being able to move from reacting to responding can be a challenging feat. Honestly, both seem pretty comparable because we often use the words interchangeably; but when using in practice, they are quite different.
Reacting is usually an impulsive, emotional action. For example, your husband cheats on you. You are angry and hurt. You (react) retaliate by having an affair of your own. You are out on a date with the Mrs. Someone approaches her and is flirting. You are angry and feel disrespected. You (react) punch the dude in the face.
Responding involves simmering your emotional action with logical, critical thinking. Your husband cheats on you. You are angry and hurt. You (respond) take some time to yourself to figure out and explore what you need for resolution. Then you communicate this to your husband. You are out on a date with the Mrs. Someone approaches her and is flirting. You are angry; you feel disrespected. You (respond) by letting him know she is with you.
Moving from reacting to responding is much easier said than done. But we are all accountable for what comes out of our mouth and how we treat others. The more you practice responding in little every day stressors, you are training your brain to be able to respond instead of react to greater stressors.
Some things that have been helpful to me:
1) Be aware of my body and thoughts.
Are your palms sweaty? Are your teeth clenching? Do you have balled up fists? Are your thoughts racing? Or you can’t think at all? These are all precursors that whatever comes next is probably a reaction and not a response. Resist doing anything when you notice these signs. Take deep breaths.
2) Take a “time-out”
Walking away or ending a conversation is not weak or giving up control. In fact, reacting often leads to being out of control and living with regrets. Taking a time-out allows for you to explore options and decide what is going to be best. Then you can respond accordingly.
3) Ask yourself, “what do I want the end goal to be?”
After reacting, we often reflect , have regrets and say “hindsight is 20/20.” In the moment, if we take time to transport to the future, we can determine the best response.
What else may be helpful?