Don’t React: Respond

This post is by Bernice Wood of Living the Balanced Life.

When you come up against negative things in life, what do you do? Most of us react. We do the first thing that comes to mind. It’s probably not the right thing. We may also feel rising negative emotions that can get the best of us.

On the other hand, if we are a little more secure, with a degree of emotional intelligence, we will probably respond instead of react.

“What’s the difference?” you may ask.

According to

  • to react: to act in an opposing or contrary manner
  • to respond: to react favorably

Let’s look at a common way these words—respond and react—are used.

Image by taiyofj, licensed under Creative Commons

When you take an antibiotic for an illness, you are hoping for your body to respond to the medicine: to act accordingly, to have a positive effect on your body, to create change for the good.

If, however, your body reacts, or has a reaction (sometimes known as an allergic reaction) to the medicine, it is rebelling against it. It doesn’t want it, it is rejecting it, and acting harshly because of it.

Now, obviously, we can’t control whether our bodies respond or react to medication. We would all hope for response rather than reaction.

However, we can have control over whether we respond or react to the negative things that come our way.

5 Ways to respond instead of react

  1. Take a deep breath and tell yourself this is not a personal attack.
  2. Realize that what has happened has already happened, and you cannot change that fact. All you can do is move forward from this point.
  3. Decide what your next steps or words will be in this situation.
  4. See if there is anything you need to do differently to avoid this in the future, or is there something you need to learn from this experience?
  5. Release the occurrence to God, the universe, or whomever you need to, and move on.

Understanding this process has been very helpful to me as I work to overcome a mental meltdown last year and lingering anxiety. One short sentence has helped me very much:

Whatever is, is.

What helps you to respond, rather than react?

Bernice Wood is Mom to 4 young adults and Nana to 7 grandchildren. She began blogging to journal her personal struggles and life changes, and she recently launched Living the Balanced Life to help others avoid the pitfalls of stress and burnout and learn to live a more healthy life.

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  1. This post was well-timed, something I’m dealing with now. Time and perspective help a great deal in these situations. If only I could always remember to wait before speaking.

    Thanks for the advice.

    • Yes, it is difficult to not let the first thing that comes to your mind come out of your mouth! I think one key would be to let that rise of emotions be a flasshing red light that says “WAIT a second! Think about how you are feeling!”
      Thatnks for your comment!

  2. thank you, very helpful article. wonderful reminder. 🙂

  3. This is wonderful advice Bernice. I’m guilty of reacting instead of responding at times — especially with those closest to me. What you said about remembering that you’re not being personally attacked is so true!

  4. talking yourself through something (even if it’s mentally preparing for an anticipated stressful event) is one of the greatest tools you can enact to help yourself properly respond.

  5. These are good tips but in my experience the first one is the most important and if you cannot pause then there is little hope… especially if you have a volatile personality. I certainly know my share of people that tend to “fly off the handle” on issues. For me, I like to try and anticipate these scenarios, affect the pieces that I can and then let it go. The old 80/20 rule.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for a very timely post. I wish that I had taken the time to read it this morning, before my difficult day led to my volatile reaction. I say “It is what it is” all the time, but it is often hard for me to believe it. I feel like I should print up the 5 response ideas and carry them around like a talisman all the time; maybe I will!

  7. This article is very helpful. I have been dealing with situations lately that have not been the most positive. What a different perspective it is to chose whether to respond or to react to the situation. Choosing one allows you to maintain some control in the situation while the other causes you to lose it.

  8. I used the above “mantras” last night following my teen son’s defiant behavior, which occurred during my time with my daughter helping her with homework.

    It was setting off all sorts of anger and anxiety in me. I stayed in control using visualization and focus. It worked quite well during. Following this, I had to sit and focus. This was clearly my next challenge because the energy was churning in me (like, let’s go kickboxing or beat a tennis ball, yuh!) afterward I inhaled slow and exhaled fast and hard (as though blowing crumbs (the anger, anxiety, his actions) off a visual table. I then centered more using “let go” and visualized chakras being cleansed from head to sacrum slowly. And no regrets for things said or done later…yes! I will survive the teen years, I will work this out, I will flow, until FINALLY it is easier. And yes, each time it does get easier.

  9. I like the idea of just “releasing the occurrence” and moving on. I struggle with holding on to the situation, gnashing teeth, cursing and muttering, and often making the situation much more challenging for ME, not necessarily the other person. Just let. it. go.

  10. Alina Romanova says:

    Brilliant & so

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