Coach's Corner - How Do We React?

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

- Newton's Third Law of Motion

Although the laws of physics and human relations cannot be seen in the same way, there is a similarity that for every action between people there is a reaction.

What is our reaction? How do we respond? What is an important part of that response?

These are questions we need to ask ourselves because we are expected to react or respond. There are essentially 3 types of reactions:

  1. Avoidance

  2. Knee-Jerk

  3. Thoughtful

First, it may be a good place to start for each of us to look at our pattern of reacting. Are we avoiders, hoping the problem will go away? Do we tend to react immediately based on our primal fight or flight instinct? Or do we take time to think about our response, despite our wanting to avoid or conversely to jump right in?

Avoidance does not solve issues; in fact, avoidance usually exacerbates or prolongs them. We need to understand that by choosing avoidance, whether intentionally or not, those around us can't be sure what it is we want or desire.

Good questions for us to ask ourselves include:

  • Why are we avoiding this?

  • What do we achieve by avoidance?

  • What message are we giving when we choose to avoid?

For those of us who tend to avoid, we need to answer these three questions and then have the courage to be heard and understood.

When we react in a knee-jerk fashion we often end up regretting, apologizing, or retracting what we said. Responses blurted out are usually done with little to no forethought as to where or how they land, what grief or anxiety they cause, or what antagonism they foster.

Before reacting quickly or immediately it is best to pause and take time to think. We can tell those expecting our response that we will get back to them at a specific time.

Then we need to ask:

  • What do we want to accomplish with our reply?

  • What are the ramifications of various responses?

Some of us are more ponderous and take time to gather our thoughts. Time may be a variable depending upon the urgency of the situation. For our communication and expectations to be clear, we still need to explicitly say when we will get back to whomever we are responding.

Again, we ask ourselves questions such as, in what direction do we want to proceed?

How we react is as important as the message.

"You can't control other people's behaviour, but you can control your responses to it."

- Roberta Cava, Author of Dealing with Difficult People

Paul Abra, Certified Executive Coach, Motivated Coaching and Development

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