To React or Respond, That is the Question

Much of what we teach at The Forte Factor is to learn how to respond, not react, to whatever life sends your way. One of the things our founder says frequently is “life is as it is. It’s what you do with the information you’re given that determines the quality of your life.”

So, now that we’re officially facing a pandemic with COVID-19, I think it’s fair to say people are reacting, not responding. Buying out stock of Purell and cleaning supplies. A reaction. Stocking up on water and toilet paper. Reaction. Rushing to the doctor for a runny nose that otherwise would never have been given a second thought. Reaction.

Let’s take a look at what the difference between response and reaction really is.

To react means to say or behave without necessarily thinking things through. Often referred to as off-the-cuff, you decide quickly what you’re going to do next. Though spontaneous behavior can be a great thing in some situations, like improv, it can prevent you from making wise choices.

A response is when you take a moment to gather meaningful information – both internally (what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling) and externally (what’s happening in the world around you). What is true? What is hype? What is sensationalism?

The power of reaction is based in a person’s inability to calmly process new information. When new information is available, the brain considers this to be “change.” Change activates the fight-flight-freeze reactions, hence the widespread panic that we’re seeing now. People slip into their natural survival tendencies.

But what if instead you took a moment to understand the situation? Taking that moment ensures you don’t get owned by the fight-flight-freeze reaction and you allow your greatest thoughts, energy and emotions to focus on what you have to deal with so you give yourself greater options and opportunities. You don’t spend your energy being worried. You use your energy to wisely solve. Imagine what life could be like and what you could accomplish if you were able to manage your emotions and your response to external factors in a meaningful way.

It’s possible.

Have a strategy to know how to gather the right information, share accurate information and focus on keeping people safe. With this focus, you can more mindfully look at this situation and, using your calmer, wiser brain, develop a strategy to make the most or the best of whatever happens. You can’t control it, but you can wisely prepare for anything out of the ordinary. Start by stopping to gather information, work to understand the information, then create and implement a plan. We share this same guidance for both individuals/families as well as organizations.

So, as a mother to 3 little boys ages 3 and under, I’m intentionally deciding to be a “prepared aware.” I see the need to be prepared for what could happen (awareness), so I will be prepared as best as I can (my response). Using the guidance I shared with you above, my family will create and implement our plan to ensure we are aware and safe.

Take Action
Today, try to be aware of when you start to feel panic. It can show up as anxiety, fear or anger, so watch for your triggers – the things that make you feel that way. Then, challenge yourself to close your eyes and count to three. This is to interrupt that noisy worried brain to get it to calm down to see what is true so you can make a better decision about what to do next.

Panic is a reaction. Prepared is a response.

Be prepared.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Your Check Engine Light

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Are you Ready to Act Like a Manager?

Being human means that sometimes our emotions get the best of us. Consider whether you would react or respond to the following situations.

  • Your best employee just gave her notice.
  • An employee has been late to work twice this week.
  • Your department is over budget in its spending for the month.
  • An important email was sent to a customer with typos and inaccurate information.
  • Two employees argue in front of the customer.
  • The office gossips about an employee who is having a personal problem.

You can vent. You can rant. You can react. But if you do, what is likely to happen is that you may not solve the situation but rather aggravate your team or customers in the process.

Instead, you could respond with intention. When responding, you allow yourself to see the situation from external and internal perspectives.

External. Stop and notice what is creating the situation. What information do you need to fully understand the situation to be able to handle it effectively? What are the circumstances, personalities and details affecting the situation? What is working and not working in this moment that is creating this?

Internal. Stop and notice you. What is your emotional state? What of your strengths will help you here? What triggers have been activated that you will need to manage? What situations or events of the past are you bringing forward?

The guidance I share with the executives I coach – and that has direct application for all managers – is to pause for a moment in any of these situations to get informed about the internal and the external. Once you fully understand the situation, the reason for it and what is going on with you, ask yourself this question: “Who do I need to be in this moment to create the outcome I want?”

It is in this moment that you can see your habit to vent, rant and overreact, or to wisely and calmly review and manage yourself, will affect the outcome and results you want. To be an effective manager requires that you act with intention, to respond instead of react.

Effective managers and leaders are present to both their situations and themselves. By stopping and noticing both the external and internal, they can more wisely and more intentionally respond instead of react. Relationships improve. Productivity and performance improve. Results improve.

Take Action
Stop and notice a challenging situation happening in your workplace. Take the time to gather the information you need – the external and the internal –  to be ready and able to solve it. With the information about the situation and your own review of yourself, ask yourself Who do I need to be in this moment to create the outcome I want? With the information you have, choose with intention what you do next.

This doesn’t mean you won’t raise your voice or get angry in a challenging situation. It just means that you choose that response after consideration of the situation, rather than default to an old habit. And when you take the time to consider what to do, you will likely find that the raised voice or anger, though a possible solution, may likely be an infrequent option in favor of a calm, sane and methodical response.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading A Tantrum is a Tantrum

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