Friday, August 15, 2008

Response vs. Reaction

One of the basic and most valuable tools we all have in being an effective leader in our lives, or in our work, is to fine tune our ability to respond rather than react.

Responding comes from a place of calm awareness. You feel grounded and are able to think clearly. You can see the whole picture with much greater clarity. You are literally at your best when you respond.

Reacting comes from fear. You get hooked...something someone else just did or said, triggered something in you that feels vital to protect and you react on impulse. Whether you feel anger, disappointment or resentment, the underlying emotion is always fear.

So how do you strengthen the muscle of response? First of all, you practice being aware of when you are falling into either category. How does it feel when you respond? How does it feel when you react?

When I respond, I feel peaceful. I don't take what I just heard personally. I can be more curious about the other person's opinion or the situation, rather than cut them off. My mind and heart are clear.

When I react, I stand in a place of defending my point. I may feel angry. My motive is to cut down the other person speaking. It can sometimes be a "kill" or "die" type of situation. I'm in to fight it out. It doesn't feel good.

So, how do you want to be in those potentially uncomfortable situations? In peaceful interaction or fearful reaction? Once you are clear on which feels best for you, then practice. The awareness that you have a choice in the moment is key. Once you are aware of the choice, breathe and remember who you really are. You are a compassionate, loving person who wants to have peaceful interactions. It doesn't mean you sell out on your stand, but you do present it in a different way.

Meeting potentially aggressive situations with calm will often diffuse the situation. The other person may even relax a bit to match your energy and then you can discuss the situation so that you are both at your best. If the energy of the other person in the moment is so volatile, calmly suggesting you meet at another time can create another opportunity to resolve the issue.

An ongoing way of strengthening your muscle of response is to practice feeling peaceful. Meditation, prayer, reading inspirational materials, yoga and practicing breathing can all contribute to you feeling more peace more of the time.

At the core of this issue is simply knowing that we react from ego and respond from spirit. Which do you choose? How do you want to lead?

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