Be a Communication Sifu! 6 Ways to Respond Rather than React

In class or at work, we would be better served if we could think about choices and decisions rather than reacting immediately to any situation or issue that comes our way. Communication can be easy if only you keep in mind a couple of simple tips!



When you are falling sick and going to see the doctor for medication, then after a couple of weeks, you return to see the doctor for a follow-up visit. The first time, the doctor says you are reacting to the medication, the second time the doctor says you are responding to the treatment.

There is a big difference between responding and reacting, and that difference is in preparation and thought. Your team will reach better decisions and make better choices when you respond rather than react.

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How to Respond rather than React

Think ‘Big Picture’

When you think about how this specific situation fits into your overall goals and objectives, it would be easier to respond. “Think about the elephant, not just its tail”.

Put the situation in context

Always consider the context; what is happening and how the next step will best serve you and everyone involved.

Blend logic and emotion

The best decisions are both informed by facts and infused with emotion. The goal isn’t to deny your emotions, but to balance those immediate emotional responses with thoughts and facts to fill in the blanks. This is the essence of responding.

Ask yourself the key reaction question

The key question is: Am I reacting? Simply asking yourself that question can ground you and give you a quick mental break to perhaps choose differently.

Recognize choices

Often, reacting comes when you don’t know or think you don’t have any other option. When you realize that you always have choices, you can remember to consider them and the consequences they bring before moving forward.

Create 20/20 vision

Your goal at the moment is to mentally move into the future and look back with imagined 20/20 vision to determine your best response to the current situation.

communication and response: graph

Once you understand the differences, the best way to help others is to follow these three steps:

Expect – Make your expectations clear and help people understand when and where you expect response rather than immediate reaction.

Model – It is hard to encourage or inspire others to respond if you aren’t modeling it yourself.

Coach – Once you are responding rather than reacting, you are in a better position to coach others based on your experience, citing examples and more.

Response versus reaction doesn’t mean you will be slow, just thoughtful. A key feature of a communication sifu!



Zuzanna Ch
World traveller, but with the heart stuck in Malaysia.

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