Respond or React, Which one are you?

April Sabral

/ Mindset

It is such a simple question but not so simple at the same time.

This is a subject that I have been hearing more and more about and even though to some of us things may seem common sense there is a saying that says” common sense is not that common!”

So as I sat at dinner with my GREAT friend Marie Ang who is a leadership/relationship coach here in Singapore we discussed this topic at length. She shared with me that when we can help people learn to respond versus react it can really change their life and those around them. This made me realise that no matter where you are in the world Leadership skill or lack of them can impact our relationships. We all face the same human behaviours no matter what our culture, city and background is.

Marie is an amazing Leadership/Relationship Coach and part of the John C. Maxwell team aswell heads up her own consulting practice here in Singapore. She is a person that has made a massive impact on my own leadership and is always willing to share her personal knowlegde and tips with me as we sat together and discussed this simple but not so simple to execute concept it inspired me to write a quick post to help anyone that is struggling with this so important Leadership characteristic.

So let’s break these two behaviours down.

Respond – to respond to the situation in a thoughtful fact finding way with a calm demeanour.

React – to react in an emotional way fast not thought through. It is an action purely on emotions coming from how a situation makes you feel.

Mmmm….Which one?

Well, I know I have done both in my life. I find it much easier to respond versus react at work versus my personal life especially because at home our emotions get involved. Marie shared with me that when people react it causes a ripple around them and can cause more headaches long term as well as ruin relationships Un knowingly she coaches and mentors couples and families on this in her own practice. However when it comes to leadership and reacting this can also be a huge problem one that can derail your teams buy in to you as their leader break down team work and lower overall productivity. When a leader constantly reacts to situations from their own personal bias and emotions others around them can almost become reactionary too and scared to even communicate in fear of the emotional responses.

Reacting can cause a break down of trust lack of general understanding and communication can become confrontational. When this happens nobody wins and everyone is left hanging off the cliff.

To practice responding versus reacting there are a few things you can do.

Keep in mind that you will feel emotions towards situations people and external circumstances you are human after all.

Knowing this find out what your triggers are, maybe its when a member of your team uses certain words or your kids don’t do what you have asked them to over and over again. What ever it is follow these practical steps and you will be on your way to being much better and aware of this artful behaviour.

8 key practical actions:

  1. Be Mindful, actively practice mindfulness by being in the moment and do nothing. Wait and take a deep breath. sounds easy its not! count to 10.
  2. Think about your long term outcome, is your reaction going to support you in what you want to achieve. Before you act think this through by writing this down.
  3. Send your response to yourself, before you do to someone else. This can be very helpful I do this sometimes and helps me see it from the other persons perspective that will be on the receiving end.
  4. Wait 24 hours if possible to respond, this may not always be an option if so then tailor it to an hour or two depending on the circumstances.
  5. Write down all the possible outcomes, and solutions. Pick the best one.
  6. Take the emotions out of it, find out what triggers you and why, then try and stick to the facts. This will help move the situation forwards.
  7. Don’t assume. Big one. If you assume in any given situation you may be acting on your own emotions, try and ask the other person for more information if you are not clear this can support you be more responsive versus reactive.
  8. Ask someone who is very pragmatic to vet your response this can be helpful in language and ensuring you are not being emotional.

If all else fails, well don’t beat yourself up. Apologize to people for your reaction and move on. We are all human and can’t get it right all of the time and most people understand this. It’s not ok if you react versus respond all the time but once in a while is ok.

If you want to know more about Marie Ang and what she does she can be contacted below. and

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