Respond vs React

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My intent with this post is not to be political but to point out how people often react to a situation instead of responding.

The United States wants people who react – plain and simple.  As a populous we want to know NOW.  When someone is asked a question we listen ready to pounce on any perceived weakness in their answer.  At the Tea Party debate last week in Tampa, FL, this happened with respect to a theoretical question about a 30 year old male who had chosen not to insure himself.  It was posed to Ron Paul. The question was, if he became ill and went into a coma and would die without medical intervention, should we help him or allow him to die?  The reaction from Ron Paul was “That is what freedom is about, taking your own risks.”  Then secondary reaction from the crowd was cheering.

Shortly after being pressed, Ron Paul relented saying “No.”

Now that some time has passed, my guess is most of the audience regret what they did because they reacted in a charged environment where emotion, not logic, ruled.

Does this ever happen in the work place?  Do you ever get carried away by your self-confidence, the emotion of the moment or pressure to make a decision?  In these situations we react and generally don’t take the time to think about our answer so we can instead provide a thoughtful response. It may not take much longer than a reaction but you must be disciplined to do so, especially in an emotionally charged environment.

Corlea Group

What to do?

  1. Anticipate – before heading into any meeting, remind yourself the most benign conversations can become emotional and everyone deserves a thoughtful response.
  2. Breathe – literally force yourself to take a deep breath, make this a habit as it will give you time to consider your response before blurting something out you might regret.
  3. Seek to Understand – restate the question and ask qualifying questions to make sure you understand the context of the question as much as the content.
  4. Tone – do your best not to raise your voice, pound your fist or make a face.  All of these will affect how your message is heard.
  5. Ask if you were clear.  Better yet, ask what was heard.

This may seem cumbersome but like any good process it will create freedom for you and better communication between you and your colleagues, family and friends.  Leadership is hard work, the more you practice, the better you’ll get at responding instead of reacting.

Jack Kelly
Jack Kelly
Jack founded the Corlea Group in early 2009 with his first client coming on board in January of that year. Jack loves to coach. He coaches his clients and he helps coach his kid’s teams – it’s his passion and has been for over 25 years as a professional, father and volunteer. Why? Because he likes to help a team succeed.
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