Mon | Dec 11, 2023

Reacting versus responding

Published:Sunday | November 5, 2023 | 12:08 AM

Life is full of a series of ‘energy exchanges’, and in each exchange, we have an underlying choice: to react or respond. These two words seem synonymous, but they carry vastly different meanings when it comes to our actions and their consequences. Understanding the difference and mastering the skill can lead to more constructive interactions and harmonious relationships.

Why do we react?

Reacting is our automatic, knee-jerk, easy answer to any situation. It is impulsive, driven by our emotions, often occurring without consideration and lack of awareness. When we react, we let our anger, fear, frustration, hurt, or other emotions dictate our words or actions, which leads to misunderstandings, pain, conflicts, and many unintended consequences. Reacting may provide instant relief but often causes more harm than good.

How to respond?

Responding is a deliberate approach to being thoughtful and choosing intentional action. It involves pausing, taking a step back to assess the situation, considering the potential outcomes of our actions, and choosing the most appropriate course of action. Responding requires emotional intelligence and self-control. It entails productive and respectful communication. The basic requirement to learn to respond is to be aware of the emotional tornado created by us, which is stimulated by the behaviour of others. Once you are aware, you create a gap between people’s actions, you perceiving them in a certain way, creating emotions, and finally expressing emotions in an undisciplined manner.

Points to consider when responding:

1. Pause and breathe: When faced with a challenging situation, take a moment to pause, be aware of your thoughts, and allow yourself to detach from your initiation of emotional reaction.

2. Listening without bias: Listen to others neutrally, detaching yourself from your set of beliefs, and then answer. This helps in understanding their perspective and being respectful of others’ beliefs.

3. Choosing words wisely: Think before you speak. People can’t hear your thoughts, but words once spoken, can’t be taken back. Consider the impact your words may have on other people and the situation as a whole. You will not regret if you make wiser choices.

4. Seek solutions: Focus more on finding solutions than dwelling and expanding the problem. This proactive approach can resolve conflicts and allows us to embrace differences of opinion.

Mastering the ‘art of responding’ can transform our relationships, improve our decision-making, and enhance our overall well-being. It empowers us to approach life’s challenges with grace, empathy, and wisdom, ultimately leading to more constructive interactions and better outcomes. So the next time you find yourself in a situation where you feel the urge to react, remember the power of responding and the difference it can make in your life and the lives of those around you.

Courtesy: Rajyoga Meditation Center, Kingston (meditation courses and counselling are offered free of charge). Email: Or follow on Instagram: rajyoga_meditation_jamaica