The Seriousness in Responding versus Reacting

by on May 26, 2011

The Seriousness in Responding versus Reacting

 

As I write this, I have just returned from being away for a few days.  I expected based on past experience I would have quite a bit to catch up on when I came back.  Between US mail, e-mail (2 accounts), voicemail (2 phones) and just touching base with immediate family members, there was quite a bit to absorb.  Fortunately, I have made it through most of what was there for me when I returned, but one piece of e-mail I received left an impression on me that I would like to share with my readers.

It came via a monthly newsletter from IPEC (Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching), the coaching school where I received my certification, and was in the monthly inspirational piece that the founder Bruce D Schneider provides to IPEC students and alumni.  It read as follows: “No matter what happens, somebody will find a way to take it too seriously”.

I had reflected about the past several days.  While my time away was enjoyable, as with any time that one finds themselves in unfamiliar situations, things don’t always go as planned.  Travel connections can be delayed, (such as the ones my wife and I had on our way home).  We spent the last three days staying with a friend, and there were some adjustments to be made in terms of the living conditions.  Even a pleasant walk along the beach earlier in the vacation was interrupted by a swarm of bugs that were popular at this time of year in the environment where we were staying.

While I would love to say that I accepted each of these situations as they came, and did not take the consequences of them too seriously, I know I would be lying.  In fact, I’m proud to say my wife displayed far better control through most of them, (as she usually does with most situations she encounters in her day to day life).  Why did I react, as opposed to respond to the situations that I was presented?  In his piece in the newsletter, Schneider indicated that for some reacting, as opposed to responding, is done just out of habit.  For others, there is an adrenaline rush in reacting.  In either case, those who react live at life’s effect as opposed to choosing to respond in a way that may be less stressful to them.

When I’ve caught myself reacting as opposed to responding, especially since I’ve increased my knowledge of emotions and attitudes in my coaching studies, I’ve questioned myself as to why I react as I do?  I agree with the concept that some of it is a habit.  Some of it has been learned by having seen the actions of my elders as I was growing up.  Often it comes from thinking ahead and anticipating the worst case scenario as opposed to fully analyzing the situation at the moment and realizing that all steps have not played out.  When I am able to get back to a more response oriented mode, I find that I’m usually able to see that even the most uncomfortable of situations for me will eventually pass, sometimes within minutes or hours.  As I’ve often indicated in my writings we all have the choice as to how we choose to respond.  It is, however, also something we can quickly forget when we let our emotions override our actions.

Therefore, the next time you find yourself taking part in a situation that you realize may have you more upset than you want to be, question yourself as to how serious the situation really is.  What is the outcome that you desire to have happen?  What do you need to change to make it happen?  If the situation plays out as it is going, what is truly the worst thing that will happen?  Will someone be seriously hurt, such as incurring bodily injury?  Or is it really a case of one individual interpreting a situation one way and another interpreting it completely differently?  If it is that uncomfortable for you, how do you choose to avoid having the same set of circumstances happen again, so as to be more comfortable the next time around?

For me, all of my uncomfortable situations ultimately came and went.  There were even other occurrences that happen, (and they often do when you are out of your regular environment), where I was in a mindset to respond as oppose to react.  I also came to realize that even in spite of all that I learn in my studies that I’m still a human being with feelings and emotions, and as such may not always put into practice as easily as I desire that which I truly have learned and believe.  However, I’m aware far more quickly now when my emotions have taken control of me, as opposed to the other way around.  As such, when I do get myself back on an even keel, I’m able to enjoy those events happening around me far more quickly than I did in the past, when I might let them churn inside me for hours on end.  Maybe there’s hope for me after all.

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