If we want to get things done we have to take action. We have to seize the moment. However, there are times when we shouldn’t act or react immediately. We need to take a pause and consider how we want to respond to the situation instead.
All the emotions we experience are valid, however, our emotions can get the better of us, especially in stressful situations. We instinctively react to the stressors in our environment, and our reactions are not always the best reflection of ourselves.
A better way to handle challenging situations is to stop reacting to the problem immediately and to think things through methodically. You can then respond appropriately. Although reacting and responding seem to be similar, a fine line separates the two.
Reacting versus Responding
Our reactions are purely based on our instincts. They stem from our subconscious mind, which means our actions, words, and behavior are unfiltered and even involuntary. When we react quickly to a situation, it seems as if we are on autopilot. We do not stop to think about how we feel.
Alternatively, a response requires us to think about our next actions. We allow ourselves to explore our mind of the possible outcomes of what we say and do. We also give ourselves time to think about the pros and cons before making a decision.
To react to something is instinctive. It is our default way of dealing with a problem. While we may get upset about a situation, letting our emotions control us prevents us from looking for a solution.
Steps To Practice – To Stop Reacting and Start Responding
Take Time to Pause
Because reacting is rooted in our instincts, it is sometimes easy to get overwhelmed by our emotions. This is why we often react harshly, as we simply let our feelings take control.
To respond well to the situation, we need to take time to pause just before our feelings overwhelm us. When you feel that your emotions are triggered, try to stop whatever you are doing and breathe. Take deep breaths and close your eyes. Let your mind take control of the situation before your feelings do.
Validate Your Feelings
As you pause, it is important to validate how you feel. Acknowledge the fact that you are feeling negative about the situation. When we validate our feelings, we let ourselves know that we are allowed to feel that way. By doing so, we become more in control of our emotions.
Being aware of our feelings can also give us clarity of what is going on around us. As a result, we become more aware of our surroundings and ourselves, making it easier to address the problem.
Get Moving and Release Pent Up Energy
In some cases, a change of pace can change our perspectives. For example, when feeling triggered by a challenging situation, moving around gives us time to think before doing anything that we might regret later. Physical activity can also dispel anxious energy that tenses up your whole body.
Whether going on a run or simply walking around the room, moving around allows you to shift your focus on the negative emotions you might have to something more productive and positive. You might be surprised to see how simply walking for a few minutes can help you achieve a sense of clarity.
Choose a Thoughtful Response
Now that you are considerably calmer and more focused, your instinctive reaction may have already passed. By this time, you can now choose a thoughtful and skillful response. In addition, as your mind is much clearer and more rational, your brain is now more prepared to respond to the situation.
When choosing a thoughtful response, reflect on what truly matters in the situation. Consider your goal and what is the outcome that you want to achieve. Then, think about how you can respond productively. Your response must allow you to move closer to your goal.
For example, you are running late for work. As you are driving a car suddenly cuts in front of you. It is easy to give in to your initial reaction, which is to get angry. You might even take it further by having a confrontation with the other driver. However, road rage is not a healthy or safe way to handle the situation, and it takes you farther from your initial goal of getting to work safely and on time.
A better response to the situation would be to keep yourself calm and continue driving. This response would take you much closer to your intention to get to work on time.
Learning how to give a thoughtful response in any situation is not easy. Allow yourself time to practice your self-reflective capacity. Be mindful of your emotions as you help yourself strengthen your resolve to respond with purpose. Your goal is not to be completely non-reactive all the time, but rather to decrease your reactive impulsiveness and control your emotions better.