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To read the first piece in this two-part series on reacting vs responding, click here.

There is a massive difference between how you react and respond.

Reacting arises from a wound-driven state

Reaction is fear-based. It is immediate. It is motivated by your beliefs, habits, emotions, values and the biases that reside in that deeper part of your unconscious mind.

We have talked about this quite often. When this happens, this is your unconscious mind running the show without your conscious awareness.

When you react, it simply means that you have not allowed enough time and space to pause, think about and challenge what is about to come up for you.

You are permitting it to take place in the moment without taking into consideration the long-term impact of what you are about to say and do.

The outcome? It leaves you with regret and wishing you hadn’t said or done the things that you exhibit. And this goes back to allowing others to control you by you reacting to them. At that point, they are in control of you and you have given your power away and diminished your boundaries.

The Dalai Lama says that we often add to our pain and suffering by being overly sensitive, overreacting to minor things and sometimes taking things too personally.

Responding arises from a purpose-driven state 

Responding is love-based. It has space and boundaries. It is slower in pace. It is motivated by responsibility, accountability and power.

In this state, you think about the ecology as a whole — the consequences and the understanding that everything is related to everything else.

Responding is more consciously driven because when something does crop up, like a thought, a feeling or a desire to act, it gives you the time to ask the question, ‘what is this all about?

When you respond rather than react, you are in control. In turn, this enables you to be open to plenty of opportunities and possibilities because you created that space to pluck out the different options and abundant choices that are available to you.

In a state of responding, you are more collaborative, you think about the wellbeing of others around you and you make sure you are grounded and driven in making the right decisions that are aligned with your values.

When you can’t control what is happening, challenge yourself to control how you respond to what’s happening.

That’s where power and potential put you in a prime spot to influence an outcome.

Great people talk about ideas, small people talk about other people

When you catch yourself talking about another, have you ever stopped to consider what the other individual is thinking about you when you are speaking about another person?

Pay attention to how people talk about other people to you in private because that’s exactly how they talk about you to others.

This is another way that you are giving your power away because every time you think about another person with any form of bitterness or even speak to others about this individual, you are in fact reacting to something they said and did.

Consequently, you are allowing this person to dictate what kind of day, month or year you are going to live.

The best and only person to talk to about the problems in any kind of relationship is the very person you are in the relationship with.

Your triggers are your responsibility

Although the actions of others are not in your control, you have complete power over how you manage your triggers. Do you react or respond to them?

To help you understand the bigger picture, I have created the below table for you to reflect over and take note of which side of the equation you invest most of your time in.

React Respond
Short-sighted  Visionary & goals-driven 
Passive-aggressive  Considerate 
Jumping to conclusions  Knowledgeable 
Gossip  Values-driven 
Poor communication  Connected communication 
Overreacting  Rational 
Turf battles  Group success 
Uncooperative  Compromise 
Automatic behaviour  Deliberate behaviour 
Based on emotions  Based on thought and emotion 
Only concerned about self  Considers impact on others 
Use limited information  Involve more information 
Tends to escalate conflict  Tends to produce positive outcome 

Clearly, you can see that reacting leads to more issues and responding leads to more solutions.

The trick here is the more you are present, the more you are mindful.

This means watching what is playing out and paying attention to your triggers along with how your mind is reacting and what emotions are coming up for you.

When you pause, it’s almost as if it is happening in slow motion. You have time to breathe, not act.

However, give yourself the space to think and watch the urge to act with emotion.

Don’t judge it. Just allow it to flow through and past you as if you were the observer of a river filled with thoughts and emotions.