Respond, do not react

Gauri Chhabra
How many times have you tried to stop yourself rom reacting to an unpleasant situation and it just flowed out? The venom, the anger, the tears? And more importantly, how many times did you regret later that you had not done so?
How many times were you successful in controlling your emotions? Before you go on a guilt trip and start ticking yourself for doing it too often, let me tell you, you are not in it alone…
We’re of the same tribe.We want the same things.
Can you shift your emotional state at will? Can you shift your team members’ too?
Most of us can’t-when we get emotionally triggered we’re toast. Our train has left the proverbial station and we’re on it.
We’re stuck.
We’re stressed.
However, just because you are stressed should not make you lose your cool and start reacting to every stimulus that life has to offer you. You have to tame your mind and your senses.
For instance, you are bugged by the rising telephone bills and you call your Admin officer and say: “I’ve been looking at our teleconference bill and I think we could save 30% or more .We need to analyze conference services and cloud possibilities because I’m concerned we’re overspending by least Rs 10,000 per month and I’mthinking through the best process to identify a qualified but more cost-effective service.”
See the underlined words and phrases? These are where you communicate from-and the Admin Officer cannot even hear you. You have cut him off from the second sentence itself.
Instead if you choose not to react but respond you would say: “I want to speak with you about our goal to not just double revenue this year but also increase profitability I have some cost-cutting options I’d like to propose .Are you interested?
Outcome: Your rapport and trust with the admin has skyrocketed.
Often times our reactive compulsive state wins over the state of chosen response and that results in performance hijack. Performance hijacks happen when you lose your access to resources in clutch situations. For example, a high-potential manager walks into a senior manager’s office and can’t speak in coherent sentences although he knows the material. Or a seasoned executive babbles at the board meeting when she is known for her clear thinking. Or the manager who just saved the company has been asked to present what he did and flounders through the presentation. All these are examples of a performance hijack.
Let me give you another example. “Rohit” is a client of ours who works for a prestigious worldwide consulting group. He had been promoted to a role that involved far more presenting to and persuading key clients, and, suddenly he was freezing, stumbling, and losing clients. This high performer had become a liability. What was happening to Rohit?
We all have been conditioned to act in a manner that at one time in our lives was vital for survival. In Rohit’s case, his conditioning was to be as invisible as possible; he’d been wired in childhood to avoid a parent with a rage problem. Invisibility was equivalent to safety for young Rohit. The current-day trigger of high visibility in front of important clients was now activating this trigger and kept plunging him into his reactive state Critter State, where he had learned to shrink from the world in order to survive. His reactive state was running the show to ensure his survival-and his response state was shut down.
I am using Rohit’s case here to illustrate what can happen when neural wiring starts running amok. All behaviors and behavior patterns had some kind of intended positive outcome at the time they were created; they were useful in some way to help the individual get the positive outcome they sought. The trouble is that as we grow and change somebehavior patterns no longer serve us. They either need to be updated for the well-being of our current selves, or, in Rohit’s case, they need to be released entirely.
So, you need to respond rather than react. Here is how to:
Think big picture. When you think about how this specific situation fits into your overall goals and objectives it will be easier to respond.
Put the situation in context. Always consider the context – what is happening and how the next step will best serve you, the organization and everyone involved.
Blend logic and emotion. The best decisions are both informed by facts and infused with emotion. The goal isn’t to deny your emotions, but to balance those immediate emotional responses with thoughts and facts to fill in the blanks. This is the essence of responding.
Ask yourself the key reaction question. The key question is: Am I reacting? Simply asking yourself that question can ground you and give you a quick mental break to perhaps choose differently.
Recognize choices. Often reacting comes when you don’t know or think you do. Between the urge and the action, falls a moment of choice. We have a choice whether to lash out, to slap a band-aid on that hurt feeling, to act in a way that will level, to drown our sorrows.
Or we have a choice whether to take a step back, to feel the emotion (but not become overwhelmed by it), to think to ourselves “I notice I’m feeling hurt”, and be able to decide: “What do I really want to do about this?”
When we take the second option, we have a chance to respond. We have a chance to express our emotions in a way that feels satisfying to us and clearly communicates how we feel to the other person or people in the interaction. We have a chance to act with authenticity and integrity, and ultimately to act in a way that we can feel good about later.
When we choose reaction over responding, when we give in to that instinctive urge to scratch that itch, we lose that chance and we lose control.
When we react, we’re acting out parts of us that are buried, that don’t feel heard and have unmet needs. These parts need to surface at some point, but in order to fully process them, we need to give them the chance to emerge in a calm, supported environment, not burst out uncontrolled.
After all, between stimulus and response… is LIFE