Wednesday, August 8, 2007

i-TFTD #44: Responding vs. Reacting

Responding vs. Reacting
From the Winning Without Intimidation newsletter by Bob Burg at

People ask, "Isn't Responding and Reacting the same thing?" Actually, though the words are similar, the difference is significant. I love what Zig Ziglar asks when speaking about this concept: "Did you respond well to the medication your doctor prescribed, or did you have a bad reaction?"

Here's a winner's look at the difference between those two concepts. Recently I was pulling into a parking space. Being too hurried, and not paying attention as I should have, I didn't notice that the car parked in the next space had a man coming out of it. I braked in plenty of time, but it gave the man a start. He looked at me with that look that said, "You (insert nasty name here)!"

He reacted. Who could blame him? Now I had a choice; would I react to his reaction?... or would I respond, thereby diffusing an otherwise uncomfortable (and potentially nasty) situation, and hopefully turning a potential enemy into a friend? I chose to respond. I immediately raised my hand with a sincere smile and mouthed, "Sorry, my fault."

He then responded with a smile and a wave of his own. Funny thing is, when I got out of my car, his words to me were actually, "Sorry, I should have looked before getting out of my car." Can you believe that?! I see two results to that situation; One is that a potential (and too typical) argument turned into a friendly exchange.

Secondly, next time he is in a similar situation, there's a good chance he will respond instead of react, turn a potential enemy into a friend, and begin his own chain reaction of kindness and friendship.

Though I find the example a bit simplistic, the concept of responding as an active and conscious behaviour as opposed to reacting as a passive and unthinking behaviour, is useful. Sometimes people talk to us about their problems, expecting us to just listen. Responding in this case would be to be a good listener as opposed to reacting with solutions or advice. When someone sends a nasty mail on a genuine issue, one could either react to the tone or respond by acknowledging the issue. The latter moves the issue forward towards resolution while the former creates a new issue.

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