Do you respond or react to your situations? Lessons I learned from Bob Burg

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Often you find someone ruining an important relationship because of his actions.  When you ask why he acted as he did, he says “I had to… because…”.  That ‘because’ is usually followed by an explanation of someone else’s action being the trigger for his reaction.  Between the trigger or stimuli (the other person’s action) and his reaction is ‘that moment’ – a split second of opportunity to exert some control over the outcome of his situation.Instead of taking that moment to think and formulate a response, he thoughtlessly reacted causing irreparable harm to an important relationship that took a lot of efforts and energy to build.

My close friends always wonder why I don’t get upset and react to many things people say or do to me.  I always give them some generic response.  However, my main reason is that I get to keep on building great relationships and build new ones.  I also get to start a chain reaction of kindness and friendship that goes beyond me and my interaction with an individual.  I learned this lesson a few years ago while reading one of Bob Burg‘s book titled “Winning Without Intimidation“.

What I’ve learned is that there is a major difference between responding and reacting to a situation.  When you react, there is no thought or intelligence involved – it’s purely instinctive and most of the time the outcome is neither pleasant nor desirable.  I’m not saying having instinct isn’t helpful.  As a matter of fact, instinct is necessary for survival in many situations.  However, when you take the opportunity given to you by ‘that moment’, you respond instead of react and in the process effect a completely new version of what might have ensued had you reacted.

I highly recommend Bob’s book “Winning Without Intimidation“.  It is a guide on How to Master the Art of Positive Persuasion…Including the Difficult People You Come Across Every day.  You’ll find precious gems in the book that will help you to be intentional when faced with life’s circumstances.  In addition, below is one of Bob’s blog post and an anecdote that might help put ‘reacting’ or ‘responding’ in perspective for you.

People ask, “Isn’t Responding and Reacting the same thing?” Actually, though the words are similar, the difference is significant. For example, as Zig Ziglar asks, “did you respond well to the medication your doctor prescribed, or did you have a bad reaction?”

Here’s a look at the difference between those two concepts. Recently I was pulling into a parking space. Being too hurried, and not paying attention as I should have, I didn’t notice that the car parked in the next space had a man coming out of it. I braked in plenty of time, but it gave the man a start. He immediately looked at me in a way that communicated true anger.

He reacted. Who could blame him? Now I had a choice; would I react to his reaction? … or would I respond, thereby diffusing an otherwise uncomfortable (and potentially nasty) situation, and hopefully turning a potential enemy into a friend? I chose to respond. I immediately raised my hand with a sincere smile and mouthed, “Sorry, my fault.”

He then responded with a smile and a wave of his own. Funny thing is, when I got out of my car, his words to me were actually, “Sorry, I should have looked before getting out of my car.” Can you believe that??!!

I see two results to that situation; One is that a potential (and too typical) argument turned into a friendly exchange. Secondly, next time he is in a similar situation, there’s a good chance he will respond instead of react, turn a potential enemy into a friend, and begin his own chain reaction of kindness and friendship.