Response vs. Reaction. What’s the difference and why does it matter?

Have you ever felt out of control?

You’re not alone! It happens to the best of us. However the truth is that you have a certain amount of control over outcomes of events that happen to you in your life. And the difference is in whether you respond or react in situations.

By reacting, you are interacting with an emotional charge, it might be that you are being defensive, you can feel the emotion in your body, for example your face might go red or your stomach turns into knots.

This state of being will impact your communication resulting in a potentially less than desirable outcome as it is highly emotionally driven.

If, however, you choose to respond in a calm, thoughtful and deliberate way, your response is more likely to contain reason, logic and can change the direction of an interaction so instead of ‘fuelling the fire’ you can diffuse the situation and direct it in a constructive way.

These interactions might be with other people (they say something that pushes your buttons or start an argument) or with yourself (you are being hard on yourself or frustrated by a situation).

Regardless of which, you have the gift of choosing whether you respond or to react. Let me introduce to you a concept called ‘ERO’. ERO plays a huge part in team culture and overall effectiveness of working environments.

Essentially ERO highlights that the EVENT + RESPONSE = OUTCOME.

Most people think events lead to an outcome. In actual fact, we are the part in the middle that holds the two together. This means that our response, feelings and actions towards the response will make all the difference to an outcome.

To create better outcomes, follow these three simple steps:

  1. Practice self-awareness.

It doesn’t matter what you learn or how much you know, if you are unaware of your state or who you are being, you will not be able to create change. So, ask yourself – ‘Who am I being, a victor or a victim?’ Am I about to fly off the handle? Do I feel as though I am about to internally combust? Do I get mad and frustrated when things don’t go my way or seem out of control?

  1. Remember to breath.

If you are in a situation whereby you feel your emotional and physical state start to escalate, take deep breaths, and if need be (and if possible), remove yourself from the situation momentarily to clear your head. Even if you can’t remove yourself from the situation, deep breathing will assist you in moving closer to a state of ERO.

  1. Use ERO model to check yourself before you respond/react.

Remind yourself that your response to this situation, will affect the outcome. So think about the outcome that you want (it could be collaboration with a co-worker, not losing your cool to a screaming child or it could be not getting into a peak state of emotional stress). Then think about what you need to do in this situation, in order to be able to respond in a calm and rational manner that will get you closer to the outcome you desire (yes, this sounds like a mouthful when you’re at a peak state of frustration – but trust me, it get’s easier the more you practice).

There will certainly be times where the most obvious outcome might not physically be possible. For example, when you are stuck in a traffic jam.

Responding in a calm manner will not suddenly and magically transport you and your car to where you need to go. What it will do however is change your mindset. It will take you from an un-resourceful state of being (cranky, frustrated, watching the seconds move on the clock, wishing time would slow down whilst the traffic moved faster etc) which has you seeing the world in an un-resourceful way (this always happens to me, I’m always late – again linking to Victim or Victor mentality).

The alternative to this state of being is a resourceful state (being at peace and okay with the situation at hand, not letting it dampen the awesome day ahead, learning from the situation so that it can help you in future, making the most of your time whilst you can change it).

Either way, the response that you have here will definitely impact how the rest of your day will go (in this instance, the outcome).

Taking responsibility and ownership and choosing to respond in a certain way will have a hugely positive impact on your life – have a play around with it and see how you go.

Remember learning is the first step – the real magic happens when you start applying these methodologies and start experiencing their affect in your life directly.

Always keep in mind, to be kind to yourself. As with anything in life, practice makes perfect and it is exactly the same for ERO.

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