Workplace stress can take its toll. There are budget cuts, layoffs, cancelled projects, and disagreements between employees. You may feel irritated, trapped, nervous, anxious, or a variety of other emotions. Some people stomp off, slam desk drawers, yell, even getting aggressive. Others focus on discussion and solution. The bigger picture is analyzed, concerns are considered and addressed and a healthy interaction takes place. The first set of actions are reacting, the second responding.
There’s a big difference, right?
So, how do you get people to respond and not react? And what, really, is the difference?
A reaction is instant. It’s driven by the beliefs, biases,
and prejudices of the unconscious mind. When you say or do something “without thinking,” that’s the unconscious mind running the show. A reaction is based in the moment and doesn’t take into consideration long term effects of what you do or say. A reaction is survival-oriented and on some level a defense mechanism. It might turn out okay, but it is often something you regret later.
A response, on the other hand, usually comes more slowly. It’s based on information from both the conscious mind and unconscious mind. A response is more “ecological,” meaning that it takes into consideration the well-being of not only you but those around you. It weighs the long term effects and stays in line with your core values.
How to Respond Rather Than React
Think big picture. When you think about how this specific situation fits into your overall goals and objectives it will be easier to respond.
Put the situation in context. Always consider the context – what is happening and how the next step will best serve you, the organization and everyone involved.
Blend logic and emotion. The best decisions are both informed by facts and infused with emotion. The goal isn’t to deny your emotions, but to balance those immediate emotional responses with thoughts and facts to fill in the blanks. This is the essence of responding.
Ask yourself the key reaction question. The key question is: Am I reacting? Simply asking yourself that question can ground you and give you a quick mental break to perhaps choose differently.
Recognize choices. Often reacting comes when you don’t know or think you don’t have any other option. When you realize that you always have choices, you can remember to consider them and the consequences they bring before moving forward.
How To Help Others Respond
Once you understand the differences, the best way to help others is to follow this three step formula:
Expect. The first step is always to make your expectations clear. Help people understand when and where you expect response rather than immediate reaction.
Model. It is hard to encourage or inspire others to respond if you aren’t modeling it yourself.
Coach. Once you are responding rather than reacting, you are in a better position to coach others based on your experience, citing examples and more.
While responding seems like the practical choice, you may be wondering how speed plays into this equation. Clearly in a crisis or emergency situation, it may seem that you would logically need to react or operate in a split-second decision mode.
The reality is the best crisis managers (ER doctors, emergency management officials, firefighters as some examples) actually are trained and practice a variety of scenarios precisely so they can respond rather than react. In this way, they are building new habits of response.
The difference is in preparation and thought.
In other words, response (versus reaction) doesn’t mean you will be slow, just thoughtful. Are you operating in reaction mode? Contact Joy today! She can help you turn negative reactions into productive responses.