Learning To Respond Instead of Reacting

Your boss does less than his share of work while expecting you to work overtime. You’ve tried to keep your cool, believing that everything would work out. But, nothing changes and you are ready to explode.

Your mate is irritable. You’ve talked to her calmly about her moods and yet nothing seems to change. You feel like you are ready to explode if she scolds you one more time.

Do you hold your tongue, hoping things will improve, or do you up the ante? Is it time to make a major issue out of things? You’re trying not to react, but choosing how to respond is so difficult.

Daniel Goleman, in his book Emotional Intelligence, makes a very interesting observation, saying emotions are contagious. In other words, each of us has the power to set a tone in our relationships. If we react harshly, in all likelihood, our colleague or mate will respond harshly. Conversely, if we act positively and respectfully to those in our world, chances are very good they will respond respectfully back to us.

Consider that we have the power to impact the emotions of those around us, whether that be our colleague, mate, neighbor, or friend. By choosing to respond with clarity, calmness, and even compassion, we set the tone for a particular interaction and likely the relationship going into the future.

At The Marriage Recovery Center, we teach couples how to interrupt destructive patterns, choosing to respond instead to react. While this takes tremendous self-awareness and self-control, the results can be powerful.

Consider these additional tools to help you respond instead of reacting:

First, choose how you want to respond.

If you’ll stop, look, and listen before engaging in an argument, chances are you’ll choose not to have the argument. Little is worth arguing over. Saying something out of anger always results in damage.

Scripture tells us, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.” (Psalm 37:8)

Second, change your mind.

You need a change of mindset. Instead of noticing what your mate isn’t doing for you, start noticing what they are doing. Instead of focusing on what is going wrong with your boss or colleague, notice what is also going right. In other words, catch each other doing things right.

Third, choose when, where, and how you will have conflict.

Don’t drift into conflict. Create a time to have any kind of conflict. Create rules for engaging in conflict, and then stick to them.

Fourth, choose which relationships you will keep and which you need to let go.

Yes, there are relationships that drain our energy and are toxic and we must make difficult choices about them. There are times when we choose to let some relationships go because they are unhealthy for us.

Finally, consider what we can learn from all our relationships.

Typically, there is something for us to learn from others, even the people who annoy us. We can learn how to interact effectively, how to manage our emotions, and how to respond instead of reacting.



Credit: Dr. David Hawkins