Don’t react, respond

Don’t react, respond.

How to manage conflict

Have you ever found yourself in a position where you should have responded to your partner but instead, you reacted? What I mean by this, is that often when we express our dissatisfaction with something in our relationship, there is a fifty percent chance of your partner offering a reaction when really, a response would have suited better.

A reaction is associated with something negative. You go on the defense and you justify your every action. But what if there was a way to get your same point across but in a totally different way?

Let’s break this process down into four steps:

  1. The Topic
  2. The Message
  3. The Reaction
  4. The Response

The Topic:

The topic is the “category” in which your fight falls under. i.e. Your Relationship, your Career, Children and so forth

The obstacle is the “thing” you are currently facing, often labeled by most people, as the “issue”. But it is important to remember that not every topic is an obstacle and not every obstacle is an issue.

An obstacle can be anything from financial pressure, a medical condition to trust issues in a relationship. Drawing from what I said earlier, “Not every topic is an obstacle”, translated, means that not every hardship that we encounter, is actually a hardship. It It is all a matter of perspective. See, if we altered the way we think, we would be able to view things in a more constructive and positive way.

Take this for example, imagine you had been working for a company for a year and all of a sudden, they retrench you. What is your response? Do you react or do you respond?

Let’s break this down further. The topic at hand is your career. The obstacle you are facing is retrenchment. Now, you can react and verbally express your dissatisfaction, you can allow yourself to be consumed by anger and allow it to become an issue in your life.

Or, you can respond, thank them for their time and use that as motivation. By doing this, you disarm your obstacle and take away its power to become an issue in your life. However, if you give it the power of negativity, every obstacle that comes your way, will present itself as a hardship and thus bring you down mentally, emotionally and obliterating your confidence. By altering the way in which you view the world, you are able to think more positively and are able to transform obstacles into opportunities.

The Message:

Ever heard the saying “it’s not what you say, but how you say it”? I bet you have. But it is the plain truth. How we speak to people determines whether or not they respond or react.

The message is pretty self-explanatory: it is a point you are trying to convey to your partner. It is the wedge between your relationship. It is everything you should have said ages ago but didn’t know how. Well, I guess later is better than never.

Now, whilst what you have to say is important, you need to remember that your message is no more important than your partners feeling. Tone is key here, especially when it comes to men. Men are genetically bigger and stronger than woman and so a softer and more gentle approach is key here. Coming across short and agitated only heightens a person’s anxiety which will result In them acting and thinking irrationally.

When conveying your message, ensure you remain calm and focus on the topic at hand.

The Reaction:

As we discussed before, this is something negative. Something that is destructive and unhealthy. It is the action of shouting, name calling, throwing of objects or doing something reckless and the action of possible self-sabotage.

Whilst every person reacts, which is okay, it is important to know when to reign it in. What I mean by this is that it is okay to have an outburst, to shout and get it all out, after all, it is healthy and we all have a bad day, but it is not okay to allow it to get out of control. Any signs of crying, cowering away and god forbid, any signs of abuse, is a clear indication that things have escalated and time out needs to implemented. Taking space for self-reflection is imperative.

The Response:

This is the most favourable reaction of all. This is the positive, more productive approach. Being able to respond instead of reacting takes a great deal of self-control and discipline. Often, being able to just respond as if it were instinct, isn’t always possible due to a number of contributing factors such as our emotional wellbeing, our financial position, our environment etc.

A response offers up a solution. A way forward for the relationship and gives each person direction and goals to reach such as better communication, improved listening and more appreciation.

Why not offer responses such as “Why does that bother you so much?” “How do you suggest I improve in those areas” to try and understand your partners frustrations instead of trying to defend your honor and point out their flaws in return.

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