Know the difference between Reaction and Response

Know the difference between Reaction and Response
Written By: Counselling Psychologist
M.Sc. Psychology - Swansea University, UK.
Reviewed By: Counselling Psychologist
MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
Last Updated: 07-03-2023

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“A reaction is what we feel, and a response is what we do”
                                                                                                                 - Mike Bechtle

The first, and most obvious difference between reacting and responding is the amount of time that passes between the event and our action. A response happens quickly, almost in an instant. In comparison, it takes more time to plan and give a response.

Have you ever done something unpleasant and someone asked you, "What were you thinking?" and you didn t know what to say? We don t stop to think when we respond; we just do it. In a reaction, on the other hand, we use the part of our brain that lets us think and reason. In a way that is similar, the difference between reacting and responding is whether or not we think about other options. We say or do the first thing that comes to mind when we react. Compare that to a response, where we think about several options and then choose the words or actions that will help the most.

When we reflect back on our actions after some time has passed, we may find that our first reaction seems unreasonable and exaggerated, even to ourselves. On the other hand, responses will appear to be a great deal more reasonable. The question of whether or not our activity led to a beneficial outcome is an excellent approach to judging whether or not we were reacting when we should have been responding. Even while it is obvious why we should choose to respond to something rather than react to it, merely stating that we desire to do so won t make it happen. 

There are certain methods that we can put into practice in order to reduce the amount of time we spend reacting and increase the amount of time we spend responding. When we are able to accomplish this, our relationships improve, and we feel less frustration with ourselves for things that we may have said or done that we later come to regret.

1. Use Time-Outs:
Making time for thinking is an essential approach that can make the difference between reacting and responding to a given situation. As was mentioned earlier, in order to come up with effective replies, we need some time to engage the cognitive parts of our brains and think about different possibilities. The effects of adrenaline and the biology of our brain both point in this direction, making this conclusion not only reasonable but also scientifically sound.

The use of time-outs grants us access to that time and enables our feelings to subside, so preventing our emotions from clouding our capacity to think clearly. Because there is both a proper and an improper manner to use a time-out, it is critical to adhere to a dependable time-out procedure. The objective is to give ourselves enough time to think in a clear and sensible manner, but not so much time that we end up avoiding the subject and instead stonewalling. Taking a few seconds to Pause and Breathe can help you respond effectively, and it s a really simple thing to do. Make sure you are not reacting until you have given the situation some thought.

2. Review your alternatives:
Another strategy that distinguishes between reacting and responding is the practice of reviewing alternatives. When individuals engage in this process effectively, they engage in brainstorming various possibilities. From these options, it becomes easier to make a deliberate selection of a course of action that is expected to yield the most favourable outcome.

A thoughtful consideration of how one s words or actions may be perceived by others is essential. It is important to contemplate how the intended recipient, such as a partner, may interpret these expressions. Will they feel acknowledged, comprehended, and valued? Alternatively, might the words provoke defensiveness, or could the actions generate feelings of intimidation or threat?

3. Constructive thinking:
It is essential that we give some thought to how we will concentrate our attention while taking a time-out or any other break necessary to plan our answer. It all begins with having a healthy awareness of both our feelings and the thoughts that lie behind them. For example- taking space to pay attention to your own thoughts (the stories your mind might be creating) with regard to the situation. Between reacting and responding, there is a significant difference when one starts with the undistorted truth.

4. Manage emotions with facts in balance:
When emotions are not fully in control of the process, we make our best decisions. Think about the "Fight or Flight Response" that we all possess naturally to understand the importance of emotions and intuition. To make the greatest decisions, though, emotions must be kept in check and combined with the truth.

5. Pay attention:
You ll be able to better appreciate the situation s background if you pay attention. This is significant since it is necessary to have implicit situational knowledge in order to respond appropriately. Additionally, it will keep you informed of the other party s priorities, thoughts, and beliefs in the scenario. You will be able to see the state more clearly and examine the situation more carefully as a result.

6. Watch your ways:
"Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become destiny." Keep a close eye on your "impulse to react" when you are provoked and resist the want to act on it. Show caution by taking a careful look at your current mental process, body language, sensations, and emotions as they emerge from the circumstance. This will help you identify your weaknesses, acknowledge your errors, take the necessary corrective action, and ride high as you deliver the appropriate response. Your ability to delay an immediate reaction will also increase with time spent on watch. 

7. Provide appropriate Response:
This stage of the process is crucial since it s when it all comes together. Success or failure depends entirely on how you react to events, not just what they do to you. You have no control over the events that happen in your life, but you do have power over how you react. Explore your thoughts to select the ideal words, actions, and posture for yourself and others in the scenario based on the strong foundation created in the preceding steps. The optimal answer is informed by data from both the conscious and subconscious mind, saturated with emotions, and concerned about both oneself and the people around them.

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