Reacting vs. Responding

We are all familiar with the concept of “over-reacting”, right? You know those times when you catch yourself yelling when whatever you're saying could certainly be communicated at a normal volume. Or when you press “send” on that angry email to your co-worker and then you immediately wish there was an “unsend” button.

“When you react you are giving away your power. When you respond you are staying in control of yourself” - Bob Proctor

We have all been guilty of over-reacting before and it can be difficult to figure out how to change that habit. The first step to change is actually understanding the difference between a reaction and a response.

The Differences: The two main differences between a reaction and a response are time and awareness.

A reaction is usually quick, ego-driven, and without a lot of thought or deliberation. It usually leads to guilt, shame, or resentment shortly after. Reactions are oftentimes lead by your “old brain” which is wired for survival.

A response typically has a longer lead time and is more well-thought-out and centered around thinking through an experience or a problem. Because of the longer up-front thought process, feelings of guilt or shame are more often avoided. Responses are lead by your “new brain” which includes the prefrontal cortex or the “seat of logic” in your brain.

How to Move from Reaction to Response: Utilize mindfulness to re-center before responding.

We won’t be able to ever fully get rid of the triggers that illicit reactions from us, but what we can do is learn how to turn those reactions into responses. One way to do this is by utilizing mindfulness techniques to re-center before responding. Next time something triggers you, see if you can take a moment to step back, take a few deep breaths, re-center your body and mind, then ask yourself how you want to respond. This will help you get back in the driver’s seat and take control of your actions.

If you would like to learn more about mindfulness and other techniques that will help you turn reactions into responses I’d love to connect with you. You can email me at or call my office at (310) 614-0323 to set up a time to discuss.