The Difference Between Responding and Reacting

I saw a YouTube channel that had some videos of Zig Ziglar relaying a story about reacting about responding. To paraphrase, imagine you are at the doctor for a follow-up visit. In your first visit the doctor had diagnosed you with strep throat and prescribed an antibiotic. On this follow up visit, the doctor comes into the exam room and says you are reacting to the medication.

Now imagine the visit but a different announcement. Imagine the the doctor informs you that you are responding to the medication.

There’s a big difference between responding and simply reacting. They are on two different tracks in our minds. Reacting is reflexive, intuitive, instinctive. On the contrary, a response indicates thought, consideration. Both influence the result and to be frank, there is likely a time for each.

Once, after a long day and contentious argument in court, I tossed my pen onto counsel table. The judge asked if I’d thrown my pen at the court. In a moment, I’d realized that the pen had landed on the microphone base, and made quite a racket. I said, no, apologized for the distraction, and explained I meant no disrespect, and the process moved on. Had I reacted differently, I may have had different accommodations that night!

Reactions above all else are automatic. When we react to something, the outcome is unplanned, at the very least unpredictable. Its important, especially as tensions, stress, fatigue, distractions, etc. mount, to first notice that these things could possibly impact your perception of a particular situation and drive your response. Once that moment of notice takes place, the stage is set to choose to respond, instead of react.

That takes some practice.

About Chris McGrath

I’m a Carmel, Indiana business attorney providing business counsel, commercial litigation and mediation services based on over 20 years of experience. My firm is founded on a principle of supporting others’ advancement and achievement, and my core values are service, passion, faith & loyalty.Chris McGrath’s Google+ Profile