Let’s talk about REACTION VS. RESPONSE
Why do we act a certain way or say hurtful words when we get triggered? Because when the part of our mind, called the subconscious senses danger signals it wants to protect us from a perceived threat and activates a “fight, flight or freeze” reaction. We act or react because someone, an action or an event has shaken our sense of worth, and our core values.
Now, imagine these scenarios:
- Your significant other is getting too friendly with the bartender.
- The car next to you unexpectedly swirls and turns in front of you, causing you to suddenly break and spill the coffee all over you.
- You’re late, and as you are rushing to leave the house, your child spills the milk.
- Your partner makes a joke about you in front of your friends and makes you feel humiliated.
- Your neighbor’s dog finds your front lawn a perfect place to release himself, and your neighbor doesn’t even bother to pick up the mess.
- Your favorite wool sweater accidentally gets in the dryer, and now it’s a perfect size for your cat.
What do you do? Do you become a bomb of rage, or do you pause and think about your next move?
As adults, we all know what the right thing to do is. Yet, more often than we would like to admit, our emotions get the best of us, and we fall into the trap of REACTION.
Difference between reacting and responding
Life is full of unexpected events.
An event is not necessarily good or bad, sad or happy, right or wrong. It is the meaning we give to it that determines our reaction or response. It is our past experiences, beliefs, memories, mood, prejudices, culture, and values that drive us to behave the way we do.
A reaction happens suddenly, without giving the conscious mind a chance to evaluate, decide, and reason. It’s your subconscious mind on steroids! It’s survival base and in a sense a defense mechanism.
Response takes time. It weighs the outcome and stays true to your core values. It’s ecological, good for all parties involved.
Reaction is aggressive and and arises from a wound-driven state.
Response is assertive, responsible and purpose driven.
Reaction takes your power away, making you victim to someone else’s behavior.
Response is empowering.
Reaction is impulsive and leads to regret.
Response is willful and controlled.
Reaction causes unnecessary arguments, heartache, and anger.
Response is solution based and settles conflicts quickly.
How to overcome reactivity
- ACKNOWLEDGE- Emotions aren’t good or bad. Right or wrong. It’s how you choose to deal with those emotions that make all the difference. Being aware of your emotions, and understanding where they come from is the key in managing and ultimately being in charge of them. Your emotions influence the way you think and behave. They are your internal GPS, negative emotion is simply telling you something needs to change. So it’s important to be aware of how your emotional reactivity can change your perception, and ultimately, your behavior.
- PAUSE– If you are feeling angry or upset at someone or a situation, take a deep breath, and count to ten. By doing this, you are consciously relaxing your nervous system and allowing your mind to return to a state of calmness. Also, If you can step away, go for a walk or just leave the room for a few minutes; this will also give you a chance to regain control over your emotions, get back to your body, and communicate from an empowering place.
- Refuse to stay in a conversation that is aggressive and angry. If you see your partner or the reactive person is pulling you into a destructive conversation, use your communication skills and boundaries to politely and calmly walk away from the conversation, instead of engaging in a never-ending quarrel. Example: “I see that you are very upset right now, let’s continue this conversation when we are both calm and can come to an agreement without hurting each other.”
- See the situation from the other person’s perspective. This is when you put bias to the side and practice humility. Ask yourself, what is the underlying reason for his/her outburst? Unmask the message, what is really being communicated? How am I responsible for this?
- Identify your feelings. You are consumed by many different emotions; you feel you are being controlled by your impulses. Stop! Refrain from acting on your impulses, instead identify your emotions, “frustration”, “disappointment”, “resentment”, “fear”, and so on. This simple yet powerful step allows you to reclaim your power and choose the right words to describe your feelings.
- Reframe- Often times reactivity is when we feel our beliefs and or one or more of our core values is being violated. This causes you to have judgment and react. Realize the other person also has a set of beliefs and values of their own that is precious to them. Practice seeing from their point of view, this will also help you not to take their behavior so personally.
- Practice mindfulness. Remember who you are in essence. Does reacting elevate your values or lessens them? What you say, can hurt you later on and de-value who you are.
- Think-evaluate-speak. Before you get explosive and give in to your impulses, think! Will my reaction help me demonstrate my point effectively? If the answer is no, go back to number one, pause, breath, and re-center your thoughts to a more effective way of communicating.
Lastly, if you have anger issues or quickly become reactive to people and situations, I suggest you check into NLP and how it can support you in finding and removing the root cause of your anger and limiting beliefs. After all, you deserve a life lived in calmness and serenity. Being a slave to your past baggage make life a struggle rather than joyous.