To understand the difference between react and respond, let’s first imagine the below situation.
You’re driving along, on your way to work, minding your own business. Out of nowhere, someone starts to cut you off or drives dangerously! You need to hit your breaks instantly and it can affect your mood and focus. What do you do next? You get angry, scream at him, start to honk and maybe fly off the handle. You end up reacting within seconds. This negatively impacts your balance and you find yourself disturbed for a while.
However, it’s best not to react to a negative situation and respond instead. But what does that mean? For that, you need to understand the difference between react and respond.
The difference between react and respond
Understanding the difference between reacting and responding is crucial. Responding refers to taking time to understand what’s happening around you, processing it and doing something about it in a positive and wise manner. Reacting is more rash, mindless and without much thought. So how do you do it?
Rather than allowing your thoughts to arise and your body to react to them, try to pause when stimulated or angered before figuring out your next move. Slowly understand what’s bothering you and let that determine your response. Don’t let frivolous thoughts and the everyday situations of life control you. When you respond rather than react, you take a moment to pause, perceive, and proceed based on what is the best course of action.
Let’s understand the difference between reacting and responding when you are angry with a friend or colleague and you feel hurt.
You start to shout at them, you might throw a bottle on the floor, create a loud scene and make the situation uncomfortable. This does not help you feel better but in fact makes you more disturbed & you lose your equanimity.
You drink a sip of water, take a few deep breaths and realise that you’re angry right now and don’t want to let it affect your day. You will notice you are feeling very restless, so you may even take a walk. Once you’re done with a walk, you will be able to process your thoughts and feelings better and come to an amicable solution to your problem. This helps both parties and helps you control your anger and frustration!
How to respond rather than react
- Take a walk when angry
- Practice meditation and mindfulness
- Talk to a friend
Take a walk when angry
By doing this, you will truly understand the difference between react and respond. If you’re in a frustrating situation, removing yourself from it can help you process better. You are left alone with your thoughts to reflect and understand what is going on. And by taking a walk, you have already not reacted!
Practice meditation and mindfulness
By making meditation and mindfulness practices a part of your everyday routine, you’re training your brain to become kinder and more compassionate. You are allowing yourself to connect with your mind and body. This allows you to understand your emotions, how you feel and navigate and potentially negative situations better. Moreover, meditation practice builds empathy and resilience, which makes you more responsive and less reactive.
Evolve helps make meditation easy and joyful and allows you to incorporate mindfulness into your day with joyful guided audios!
Talk to a friend
Talking to a friend regularly and getting feedback from them about your actions can help you become more self-aware. Moreover, talking to a trusted friend before reacting or doing something after being in an unpleasant situation can help you gain perspective on the problem. Their advice might help you understand yourself or the other person’s actions better and help you respond in a way that finds a solution.
Whenever you’re in a negative situation, remember it’s best if you can find a way to make things better and not worse. A positive attitude towards improving things will always be a good thing for your mind and body. There’s already enough negativity in the world, why react and make it worse? Learn to improve your relationship with negative emotions and understand the difference between reacting and responding, so you can do well in the future.
Evolve’s guided meditations help you reduce stress, anxiety and anger and allow you to reflect every day! As a result, you learn how to respond to situations wisely rather than react blindly. The Evolve app is now live globally on Android & Apple, you can try it for free!
Sarah Khan is pursuing CSE and is an author at Evolve.
Who strongly believes mental health is the overall strength.
Mail at email@example.com to connect with her.