two colleagues having discussion in an office setting

How to Stop Reacting and Start Responding

Emotions are complex, subjective, biological states of the mind. They can change based on reactions to stimuli, like memories and thoughts, and often lead to actions. In times of stress, emotions can get the better of you, causing outbursts and rifts in relationships.

Setbacks like these can harm productivity, work ethic, and morale in the workplace. While it may seem like reacting and responding to situations are the same, responding offers a higher self-awareness that can make stressful situations pass effortlessly.

What’s the Difference?

  • Reacting is often more instinctive and impulsive. There is no prior consideration of what is said, done, or the consequences that may follow, as it comes from the subconscious mind. A reaction can come off as defensive, or even aggressive.
  • Responding occurs when there is acknowledgment of your current emotions and a conscious decision in the actions that follow. It often includes considering all sides of a situation and then choosing the best path to handle it.

Make the Change

The foundation of a response is rooted in pausing before doing or saying anything. As hard as that can be when emotions flare up, try taking quick, shallow breaths or mentally counting down from 10. This will allow your emotion to settle subtly enough to process your situation better. If your emotion still lingers, try politely excusing yourself from the situation. Once you’ve cooled off you can revisit your situation with more clarity.

Another helpful tool is practicing the elements of mindfulness. This involves taking in your surroundings, living in the moment, and being aware of your mind and body. Mindfulness encourages self-awareness, strengthens emotional intelligence, and decreases stress. Consider hosting a company-wide mindfulness webinar as part of your corporate wellness plan.

Transitioning from reacting to responding will require time and practice, but it will help advance your work relationships, your career, and your company. Start responding today.