A Mindful Difference: Respond vs React
There may be a slight difference between the words react and respond. Yet, in practice, there seems to be a gulf of difference.
React in action.
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. The hair on our neck stands on end. We feel our stomach turn. Our face heats up and our defenses are on red alert.
We know reactions when we see it. In fact, some people on the other side will intentionally stoke the fires, especially when they know we will react. They know if they poke we will coil up and be ready to react in a full way.
There is a downside to reacting. We let emotions without reason drive us forward. We lose control. Reacting is sporadic and emotional.
The upside may be passion, but our passion needs to be centered on purpose, not an unexpected, unproductive stimulus.
Respond in action.
On the flip side is respond. There is still an external spur to our response. Responding, though, is more thoughtful. Responses contain reasoning.
The difference may be this: Responding is guided less by emotion and more by logic.
Responding may be passive in nature, as we are going second in a series. However, a response is more active, and it can change the direction of an interaction.
The upside of a solid response is an engaging conversation, all positive and all civil. We learn. We grow. We listen. We respond. We act forthrightly and from within.
It is easy to be pulled into reacting, and it takes more effort to respond. However, with mindfulness practices, I believe exchanges can be more productive and greater integrity can be maintained.
Being mindful in our responses ensures integrity in our interactions. Absence of mindfulness will raise the likelihood of emotional reactions and unproductive arguments. We need to gain control through attentiveness and awareness, centering ourselves to lead our conversations fruitfully, honestly, and fully.