Okay–We’re going there.
Do you know the difference between these two words? Responding VS Reacting. You should.
(And before you start to question yourself–head’s up: We didn’t know the difference for years. It’s okay!)
This concept was something we were introduced to in therapy years ago. At the time, we were constantly bickering, constantly hurt by each other, constantly having mini (or large) explosions or withdrawals towards each other.
We kept having the same situations happen over and over again. It was SO frustrating. (Can you relate?)
When we were finally introduced to the concept of “Responding over Reacting” we were dumbfounded.
First, because it was so obvious. *Facepalm*
Second, because we honestly never thought about it before and it changed everything for us.
Here it is:
When something happens in our world we can view it one of two ways:
1. This is happening TO me.
2. This is happening FOR me.
The first one encourages REACTION. Meaning thoughtless action in response to the trigger. For us, it was either yelling, complaining, bickering, passive-aggressive insults, withdrawal…you get the picture.
The second one encourages RESPONDING. Meaning intentional action in response to the trigger. For us, this mean curiosity. We had to stop and ask questions before we could respond. We had to pause and answer “How is this happening FOR me right now? How would the best version of me respond?” Now while this sounds pretty and nice and easy–It was none of those things in our house.
Hey, you know we’ll keep it real with ya.
It was hard. Excruciating almost.
To stop the momentum we had built up over years, the perfected barbs of pain points, the honed ability to push buttons, the ease to which we deflected responsibility?
It didn’t happen overnight. And full disclaimer: We still have a hard time working on this in real life.
BUT. When we get it right? It’s pretty freakin’ awesome.
Now, you might be thinking, “Cool. So, what does this actually look like in real time?”
For us, it looks something like this:
*Trigger* — 0.234987 seconds into a poor reaction one of us stops in mid-sentence — “Hang on, I need a minute.” — Thinks really hard about what’s actually happening and the stories we’re making up about it. — Debates saying “Eff it.” and reacting anyway. — “Just another minute, okay?” — Thinks even harder about choosing a response that is neutral or positive. — Finally settles on the therapist’s suggestion of asking a question and affirmation. — “Okay, how would you like me to respond to that? I love you and I’m having a hard time here.” — Bites tongue to keep from slinging a passive aggressive comment. — “Yeah, I want to sit with you through this. Help me understand. Then, I would like the chance to tell you how I feel about this.” — Bites tongue again. — Sees a little glimmer of light and thinks, “Shit. This is good.” — Actual change happening and it feels like the twilight zone.
Yep–not that pretty and this is an example of when we sorta get it right.
But here’s the best part.
When you see the difference in these words, it gives you power.
When we just react to something, the situation has power over us. It is “making” us behave a certain way. When you see you have the choice to respond to a situation, rather than react to it, you get to decide. You have the ability to take action in a way you’d like to. When we respond, we are making the choice to be better. (Or at least, that’s what we’re aiming for!) When we respond, the situation that triggered us becomes a tool, not a weapon.
See? That magic? Isn’t that awesome stuff?
Yeah, we think so, too.
Let us know more about whatcha think in the comments and we can keep this conversation going. Or, better yet, send this article to your partner and start the convo with them!