Reaction or Response: The Mindful Difference


There seems to be a marginal mindful difference between Reaction and Response and this marginal difference seems to make a sea of difference in how we are perceived. It is so easy to be pulled into reacting over any comment or situation and it takes more effort and mindfulness to respond.

When people react, it seems to be defensive. We seem to be at a disadvantage. We are uncomfortable with what is being said or done and we react. In our reactions, our emotions take a central role, with little thought of the long-term consequences.

Responding, though, is more mindful or thoughtful. Responses contain a logical reasoning. Responding is guided less by emotion and more by logic. A response is more active, and has the power to change the direction of an interaction. When we respond, our brain is fully engaged, and our self-awareness is high.  We have the long-term consequences in mind.

Here are 5 things we can do to stop ourselves from a reactive outburst and give a balanced thought through response instead –


  1. Think big picture. When you think about how this specific situation fits into the larger scheme of things the overall goals and objectives it will be easier to respond.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Ask yourself the key reaction question. The key question is: Am I reacting? Or sometimes: Am I overreacting? Simply asking yourself that question can ground you and give you a quick mental break to perhaps choose differently.
  5. 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.

So, the key to a mindful response in any situation is to centre your attention, thoughts and awareness and lead a calm-peaceful interaction that will be solution-oriented and a win-win for both sides.

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