Responding v. Reacting

There’s a big difference between reacting and responding.

The power to control your response is the power to expand your opportunities. 

Let’s say that the folks where you work don’t seem to be treating you with the level of respect that you deserve. From your perspective, they just haven’t done enough to keep you engaged and energized by your work and enjoying your employment.  

Now survey after survey shows that employees are motivated to some degree by money, but much more by the feeling of meaning and purpose and belonging and accomplishment at their place of work. 

But that’s their problem. The fact that they’re not giving this to you doesn’t have to be your problem.

It was Stephen Covey who first introduced me to the idea that there needs to be a space between any stimulus that you experience and your response to that stimulus. The bigger the space, the more control you retain. That’s the difference between responding and reacting.

Let me give you an example. Your mother-in-law calls you a bum (again). You get mad and call her a name that I can’t repeat on the public airwaves. You’re mad. Your spouse is mad. Your mother-in-law is mad. And now you live in a very tense house. Are you happy with this outcome? Did you wake up this morning hoping to be mad at everyone?

What if, on the other hand, you’d had the perspective that no one can “make” you mad. Your mother-in-law may call you a name, but she can’t make you become angry. Becoming angry is actually your choice in life, not hers. So you look calmly at her and you respond, “I’m sorry you feel that way” and then you move on. That’s not to say that you don’t deal with her comment later on (maybe in a more calm situation), but it’s not her’s (or anyone else’s) prerogative to control how you will act (or re-act).

So let’s apply this “response-ability” to a work situation. 

Maybe you find yourself sometimes feeling compelled or even controlled, to be unhappy at work, due to the lack of respect that you get. Perhaps the lack of opportunities? 

It’s really worth asking yourself – am I reacting to this situation or am I responding to it? 

Am I, in fact, really doing a good job? And if so, why let the way that someone else treats me cause me to react in a negative way? 

I’ve seen people leave jobs and churches and marriages because their expectations were simply not being met. So get this, in reaction to their disappointment, not only do they move on to another job or church or marriage but they do so with a new, lower set of expectations. And this new (lower) set of expectations is met by the new situation and they’re perfectly happy. Sometimes the new situation really isn’t that much different from the old, but with new, lower expectations, the satisfaction level is a lot higher.

Now I’m not recommending that you stay in your current job if you don’t like it. But I am saying that quitting as a reaction is a poor way to maximize the likelihood of a positive outcome for yourself. 

Can you see yourself saying, “I know I am doing a good job. They may be taking me for granted, but I’m not taking myself for granted. I deserve to stay in this job and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.” 

Or, you might conclude, “This is not workable long-term. I need to be somewhere else at the soonest opportune time. I’m going to begin now the process of looking for work elsewhere, but I won’t leave until the time is right for me.”

Ever seen a daredevil walk on the wings of a plane while it’s flying? Someone once told me that first rule of wing-walking is to make sure that you have secure hold on the next wing before you let go of the wing you’re on. 

Reacting means jumping off the wing now and figuring out what to do next as you fall. Responding means reaching out, taking hold of the next wing first, then calmly stepping off the wing that you’re on.

So, don’t let resentment at work entice you into reacting at work.

Respond. You’ve got the ability.

Offering you Wisdom on Wealth, I’m Byron Moore.

Argent Advisors, Inc. is an SEC-registered investment adviser. A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request. Please See Important Disclosure Information here.


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