Okay, full confession: I have centuries of Southern Italian blood coursing through my veins. And I’m half Sicilian, so given that Island’s history I probably have Arabic, Greek, French, Latin, and North African influences. So it’s no surprise that I react strongly to almost everything. I may not show it, but my blood pressure readings will not lie. Maybe you can identify!
Not only am I genetically predisposed, but I also learned some really neat reaction techniques from my parents. There was much that counted as a moment of drama, if not a major crisis, in our household. Example: Imagine the debate on Christmas day as my parents tried to decide if the lasagna was fully cooked and ready to take out of the oven. There was hell to pay if the first cut produced a runny filling! Example: Drama abounded over the amount of garlic in the meatballs. My father liked a lot; my mother, not so much. Overreacting thus became the norm in order to get attention or to drive home a point.
Responding is quite different from reacting. Responding means we’re calm enough to listen, to perceive what’s happening and whether or not it requires our feedback. Response centers in the brain even though we are often alerted by our heart.
Reacting is almost immediate. Responding takes time, thought, and reflection. In fact prudence dictates that we ask for this valuable time before responding. Unless it’s an emergency, responses that are well formulated are often of greater value, unless it’s coming from the mouth of politician who must parse every phrase perfectly in order not to say anything of substance.
What’s your family history of reacting and responding? How have you picked up some good or bad habits in this area? What is your experience of measured responses rather than sudden reactions?
To convert successfully more of our reactions into responses, all it takes is:
1) A commitment to manage your overall stress and anxiety levels so you experience less sense of being rushed and therefore of being overwhelmed;
2) An intention to pause and wait out any initial reaction to important circumstances. In this way you might discover an appropriate response that comes from love or intelligence rather than fear or family history;
3) Acceptance that we all fall short of the ideal response and a desire to grow, to apologize if necessary, to forgive ourselves and others, and to ask for the time we need to offer responses.
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