When another is criticizing us, how do we react? Most of us automatically get defensive because we allow our egoic minds to take over our actions. Others of us may stay quiet and take it because we feel we deserve the adverse treatment. Do we even consider how we should respond versus reacting so we have an outcome we’d prefer?
I believe there is a difference between reacting and responding. A reaction is an immediate and most often automatic reply to a situation, an impulse. Reacting can be instinctive, but also in resistance to the circumstances. We base most reactions on our emotional state. Usually, when we react, it comes from fear, and we have no filters in our processing of the conditions.
In contrast, a response is a thought-out answer where options were considered. We are purposeful in how we reply to the conditions and are using emotional intelligence in our solutions. When we respond, we can consciously reply from a place of love and make the situation better.
When we pause before we reply to the circumstances, we allow our souls to whisper to us the best way to respond. Only when we respond from a place of love, can we be inclusive, make authentic connections, and allow peace to come into the outcomes.
The simple practice of hesitation helps you stop reacting blindly to everything that happens. ~ Ma Jaya
Reacting Causes Negativity to Develop
When we have an emotional reaction, our ego wants to blame, shame, and judge others. It’s looking for a way to deflect unpleasant feelings the interaction is causing to rise from our minds. We all do it, “he made me feel.” But our hurt feelings aren’t their fault. We reacted based on our past sensitivities to certain situations. Our childhood domestication process preconditioned us to react a certain way. We all have unique triggers that cause us to go into auto-pilot mode.
I feared Hispanic men because three men molested me when I was a child. This reaction would be understandable when I was a teenager. As an adult, I have worked with many lovely Hispanic men and learned that they are nothing for me to fear. Now when I see a Hispanic man, I tell my ego there is nothing to be afraid of, and I can respond from a place of love, not react fearfully.
We need to be aware of those things that produce in us a fearful reaction. What are our hot buttons? To respond appropriately, we need to understand why we react to those things that trigger us. We are responsible for how we reply to others because they aren’t the reason we are sensitive. We need to be self-aware and understand the part we play in the circumstances.
Take a deep breath and think twice before reacting. Reactions are like boomerangs. What you throw out into the world will eventually come back to you. ~ Christine E. Szymanski
Ways to Diminish Our Reaction
When we’ve been reacting to the same stimuli for decades, it’s hard to break the habitual behavior. But when we’ve reacted poorly to a situation, there are ways we can reduce the conflict.
Learn to walk away from an upsetting circumstance. Instead of yelling at someone or escalating the argument, take a walk. Let the other person know we need time to evaluate the issue, and we will come back later to discuss the matter. This time allows us to cool off, assess the situation, and evaluate options.
If our reaction is to hide away instead of facing an issue, learn to talk it out with someone trusted. Let another know how we feel and ask for ways to help us feel better or create an improved situation.
Reframe the stories we tell ourselves by improving our self-talk. Don’t allow the inner critic to spiral us downward into negativity. Instead, remind ourselves that just because we find ourselves in circumstances we don’t like doesn’t mean we can’t learn something positive from the situation.
After a controversy, take time to reflect on how we handled the conditions. We can journal ways we could have conducted ourselves differently to create a better outcome. Or we can celebrate those times in which our response was precisely what it needed to resolve the dispute.
You can’t change a negative situation with bad feelings. If you keep reacting negatively, your bad feelings will magnify and multiply the negativity. ~ Rhonda Byrne
How to Transform Reactions into Responses
The most important thing we can do to alter how we reply to any set of circumstances is to take a deep breath. This pause allows us to determine how we feel, assess the situation, and evaluate our options. When we give ourselves this moment to reflect, we can consciously choose how to move forward to a solution.
As we are determining our emotional state, we need to ask ourselves why we feel this way? Are we angry, or are we becoming distrustful and ready to defend our position? Maybe we are feeling hurt, and we are shutting down, so we don’t feel bad about ourselves. Whatever we’re feeling, we need to understand why so similar situations don’t cause us to react poorly.
Assessing the situation means we are trying to understand how we got to this place. What caused the circumstances? What role did we play to get here? Could we have done something different to have another outcome, or was this position inevitable? We also need to evaluate how others are feeling and how they are acting. We need as much information to complete the next step.
Evaluating our options refers to looking at the many paths we can take to come to the best resolution for all involved. What is the goal, and how can we get there? When we consciously gauge both good and bad possibilities, we can choose wisely and move towards the goal.
The way you react in times of challenges will determine whether your challenges will weigh you down or you will overthrow them. ~ Israelmore Ayivor
Interpersonal Skills Helps Us Respond Better
When we are dealing with others, we need to be empathic. For us to have empathy for another actually requires us to respond to them instead of reacting. Why? Because when we try to understand another person’s perspective, we choose to see the other from a loving place.
When we realize others aren’t responsible for how we feel, we recognize we aren’t accountable for how they feel or react. We can empathize and help them through their emotions, but we can let go of thinking we caused anything. Their feelings are their own.
Proper responses require us to have excellent communication skills and the willingness to cooperate or collaborate to come to a resolution for us all to move forward. Active listening is the most crucial skill to show others we want to understand their point of view. This paying attention means we are hearing what they say with the goal of understanding, maintaining eye contact, asking clarifying questions, and not interrupting.
You’re only responsible for being honest, not for someone else’s reaction to your honesty. ~ Kelli Jae Baeli
Responding with Compassion
When we are mindful, our compassionate nature comes out, and we naturally respond with love. Look at small children when one of them gets hurt. They automatically reply with love and care. They are taking action to make their injured friend feel better. This loving action is how we are all to respond to one another, but over time our egoic mind takes over.
Only the ego sees a world of separation. The soul sees we are all connected, and therefore what is best for someone else is also best for us. Who is war good for? No one, of course, but the ego doesn’t allow peace to be an option because it needs to win. To stop this egoic reaction from continually harming us, we need to pause.
When we pause before we respond, we allow ourselves to disconnect from the egoic mind. And we permit our natural compassion to rise from our souls so that we can respond from a loving place.
Again, most of what the ego reacts to isn’t life-threatening and therefore can be dismissed. Our hurt feelings typically aren’t about the current circumstances, so we need to release them and focus on the current condition to move forward to a resolution. This empowerment of controlling how we respond allows us to live a more authentic and loving life with those we have connections with.
Today, give somebody a response instead of a reaction. ~ Deepak Chopra
Moving Forward with a Loving Response
When we realize our reactions harm everyone, including ourselves, we can choose a better way. As we mindfully work on how we respond to situations, we’ll soon find it easier to manage our lives’ circumstances. Although we may still react sometimes, we’ll be able to separate ourselves from our emotions and diminish their adverse effects.
Our goal is to decrease our reactive times and realign when we react poorly. And the more we are non-reactive, the better our responses and the better our lives become. Our understanding will improve our relationships and better equipped to handle the hurdles life throws at us.
This is the key to life: the ability to reflect, the ability to know yourself, the ability to pause for a second before reacting automatically. If you can truly know yourself, you will begin the journey of transformation. ~ Deepak Chopra
As we become more conscious of our replies, we can learn to respond from a place of love and not react fearfully.
Do you need support to help you respond better? Do you want a strategy to help you overcome the ego’s limiting beliefs and live a successful life? If so, please reach out to me at TerriKozlowski.com, and we can put together an action plan for you to create the life you desire.