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  • Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

Do You React or Do You Respond? Don’t Let Your Friends Know The Answer Before You Do

Do you react or do you respond?

You are savvy. You know your emotional responses can get you into trouble. Many times our emotions can get the best of us.

It’s old news that emotions are mostly acceptable. It’s your reaction to emotions that can get messy.

Here’s how you can do better as you work to manage your emotions.

First, you have to figure out if you have a tendency to react or if you have a tendency to respond.

Here is a clue:

Responding is good.

Reacting can be bad.

Reacting is what you do when you don’t have a filter. You erupt. You spew. You bark.

Oh you know what I’m talking about. Just ask your significant other or the people who know you best. They will tell you (if you can take the honesty).

What you want to do is respond. Here’s how:

  1. Monitor yourself instead of focusing on the person you are talking to. Ask yourself if you are listening to respond or listening to understand. You want to listen to understand. That will keep you engaged and better able to manage your emotions. For a refresher, see my previous blog post Are You Listening to Understand?

  2. Focus more often on solutions instead of getting stuck by focusing on the problems. Responding requires the ability to think instead of just emoting. I often tell people that they need to make sure there is more activity happening in their brains than in their heart. Start with the heart and work your way to your brain.

  3. Speak with a statement with a period. Try it. Many times reactions are statements followed by a question mark or an exclamation point. Instead of saying, “What the heck were you thinking?” try instead to say, “That wasn’t a good choice.” You can add fuel to the fire or you can be a de-escalator.

  4. Refrain from staying too focused on the backstory. If you continue to argue your intentions, get defensive, tell the details of the back story and focus on the “Why”, you just might be stuck reacting. When you respond, you state your case but then you move on. Defensiveness breads contempt and just may lead to an abruptness to the end of a conversation. I see so many relationships where people retell the story, argue about the details, when the ability to move forward is clearly available. It’s called “argument recycling” and it doesn’t save energy.

Don’t get me wrong.

It is perfectly okay to feel and communicate emotions. It’s just when they get the best of you, at the expense or your relationship or your ability to communicate, that reacting with emotions can get you into trouble. By managing your emotions (responding rather than reacting) you are better able to work to the best of your ability emotionally, behaviorally, and intellectually.

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