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  • Writer's pictureDr. Keisha

Reactive versus Responsive…

Sometimes it can be difficult to manage our emotions.  When things happen that elicits an emotional response; we have to release this energy.  This is especially true when the energy is anger.  When we get upset, angry, bothered, irritated, agitated or whatever other word you choose to use to describe hostile feelings; we feel the need to release this emotion in the form of a behavior.   It is during these times that we have to ask ourselves what do we want from the outcome of the situation.  If we are angered; how do we want this to turn out? “Is what I am about to do (or say) being reactive or responsive?”

Before I continue; let me clarify the difference between being reactive and being responsive.  When a person is being reactive to a situation; they are usually functioning off of pure emotion and little thought.  They usually want to make sure the person feels the emotion they are experiencing AND they are not focused on an outcome – just the here and now.  It can lead to saying things that you cannot take back.  Being reactive usually leads to strained relationships, holding of grudges, and are less likely to lead to a productive resolution to the problem or a healthy outcome.  Instead, it usually continues a cycle of negative energy that weakens relationships.

To be responsive means that you can acknowledge you are hurt and angry without emotionally retaliating toward the other person.  You take time to THINK about how to best approach the problem in a manner that will lead to a rewarding outcome.  An outcome that will strengthen a relationship. An approach that is void of personal attacks.  To be responsive to a situation says “yes, I am hurting but I care for you enough to not hurt you out of my hurt”.  Being responsive communicates a mutual respect; despite feeling wronged.  Although I am aware that being responsive can be difficult; because naturally we want to react; it is imperative for the maintenance of healthy and loving relationships.

So next time the husband makes you mad, the kids didn’t do what you asked of them, the wife or girlfriend is ‘nagging’, your friend has been unfriendly, your boss/co-worker has not been a team player, your in-laws are overbearing, and your parents just will not let up off the ‘advice’; then I suggest that you process how you feel and decide if you are about to be REACTIVE or RESPONSIVE to the situation.  By making the right decision; you will likely feel better about yourself, improve the relationship, and decrease the likelihood of the problem reoccurring in the future.

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