Responding vs. Reacting

When something goes wrong in space, the first thing astronauts do is a pause.

The pause allows them to digest what they’ve seen so they can decide how to respond.

Astronauts don’t react; they respond.

What’s the difference?

Here’s author Debbie Hampton:

The act of responding requires one to look at the circumstance, identify the problem or situation, hear what is happening, and reflect. What matters is that you stopped and put an effort to think and suspend judgment. It is a conscious act and shows that you are willing to listen or observe. This gap between the circumstance and your behavior is what contributes to gaining a sense of control in your life.”

Why am I talking about this?

Most people’s default is to react to situations. The problem? When you react, you get defensive.

For example, last week, my wife received a text from Amazon with a picture of her package in front of the door at an Airbnb we’re staying at.

When she opened the door, the package wasn’t there.

She immediately blamed the neighbor for stealing her package (reacting).

A few minutes later, she paused and asked herself, “What else might be true?” (responding).

After looking at the picture closer, she realized the door wasn’t ours. Our door has a digital lock. The door where the package was didn’t. A few minutes later, she recovered her package in the lobby.

We react all the time.

Your friend doesn’t text you back. So you think they’re ignoring you.

Your boss cancels a meeting with you twice so you think you’re going to get fired.

Your kid breaks a vase, so you yell at them.

Your prospect ghosts you. You react by thinking they’re not interested, so you get anxious.

Same thoughts.

Same anxious feelings.

Same results.

Instead, pause. The simple act of pausing will turn the volume down.

Then ask yourself, “What else might be true?”

Perhaps your prospect ghosted you because they had an emergency. Maybe they’re not ready yet, but might be one day.

Different thoughts.

Different feelings.

Different results.

Are you reacting or responding?