Reacting vs. Responding | Daily Mindful Moment #17
How can you respond instead of reacting today?
Well, first of all, what is the difference between reacting and responding? It may seem like an unimportant distinction, but I think understanding the difference between these two words can be helpful for how we think about our interactions with others and how we show up to them.
I think of reacting as an involuntary reply. You're in conversation with someone, they say something, and you react immediately. On the other hand, I think of a response as more thoughtful. You're in a conversation with someone, they say something, you take a moment to consider how it made you feel, and then you respond.
If you are reacting to something, instead of responding, it puts the focus on the thing you are answering to, what was said or done by the other person that prompted your reaction. This means that it is less about what you actually think or feel, and more about a knee-jerk reply. When you react, you end up saying things you didn't mean to and having to apologize for it later. Apologies are important, but what if you could have the foresight to respond differently in the moment and save yourself and others some hurt? The point of learning to stop reacting and start responding is to learn to be more thoughtful and intentional in the way you are showing up to conversations.
So, what does it look like to start responding and stop reacting?
It looks like taking a moment to pause and consider what someone has said to you before you start to say anything. This feels really hard to do, especially if you live somewhere like the United States where the rhythm of life is very go, go, go. It's almost a small act of rebellion, of pushing against the grain, or the way that things have always been, to take on a slower pace in life and in conversation. It might feel awkward at first, but this is one of those great moments to practice leaning in to discomfort!
Practice saying these phrases out loud a few times:
"Hm. Give me a moment to think about what you just said."
"I want to pause before I respond."
"Can you give me a second to consider how that makes me feel?"
"Let me take a moment to decide what I want to do about that."
The first time you say them (even aloud to no one) it can feel uncomfortable, painful even. But the more you repeat them, the more normal they seem. At first you may be thinking, "I could NEVER say that in conversation!" but after a few repetitions, you might be thinking, "Okay, maybe I could try those out."
The best part about the practice of moving from reactions to responses is that when you allow yourself to take the time to respond, you model for others what is possible. Like I said, it might feel weird to try these moments of pause in real conversation, but what kind of social world exists on the other side of that discomfort? What if it is one where everyone learns to pause and response instead of reacting? What if the people you interact with start to learn from your behavior? What if everyone in your social world speaks more thoughtfully because you took a chance?
Listen to Episode 46 with Jennifer Furlong to hear our conversation about reacting vs. responding and why Jennifer thinks it is an important difference.
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