Responding Is Better Than Reacting


It seems that many conflicts begin because someone does not like what another has said or done. Typically, emotions kick in and there is an immediate reaction. Most often the response is one of anger, hurt, sarcasm or bitterness. These types of responses in turn elicit similar ones from the other and the fight is on.

This cycle repeats itself, so that hurt and resentment build up in each party. There is a lack of trust, and even distancing. Ultimately, the relationship can be completely ruined.

Take a moment to think about how often you hear others, or your own self, talking about a conflict with a parent, child, spouse, neighbour, or boss. The person goes over and over the events and it can even become an ongoing part of conversations for weeks or months on end. Most often the focus is on how bad the other person is, and rarely does the speaker spend time analyzing his or her own part in the problem. Nor do they focus on how to productively resolve things. They just reacted in the first place, and never move on from that.

We can change this destructive pattern by learning to respond rather than react. Whereas a reaction is an immediate, knee jerk kind of thing, a response is more thought out and conscious. It means taking the time to think about what is happening, and choosing a response that will not escalate things.

It is good to think about the outcome you want and to choose a response accordingly. If you want a peaceful resolution, you will remain calm, taking the time to fully understand what the other has said and the intention behind it. Then you focus on how the problem can be resolved. This way, you move the whole process to a higher ground, and even act as a role model for those who are more emotionally reactive.

Yes, you have to set your pride aside and resist the urge to hurt back because you feel hurt. Remember, an eye for an eye results in two blind people. Relationships, be they intimate, parent-child, friendship or work related will provide ongoing opportunities for our own growth and conscious evolution. Keep telling yourself it is not about the other person and how they are acting, but rather how you handle yourself in relation to that challenge.

Copyright © Gwen Randall-Young, All Rights Reserved. Contact us if you would like permission to reprint.

Related MP3s available:

Communication in Relationships
Releasing Anger
Healing the Past
Healing Your Inner Child
Mood Therapy

Communication in Relationships MP3

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