When something unexpected happens, do you pause a moment to reflect on an appropriate response or do you behave reflexively and act emotionally without strategic consideration for what comes next? These two extremes are the difference between how you React or Respond.
If You React
Reaction is emotional. It’s chemical.
Do you remember back in high school chemistry when you poured a bit vinegar on a small amount of baking soda? Or perhaps you remember all those crazy YouTube videos from a few years back of people dropping Mentos into bottles of Coca-Cola. There was no thoughtful pause or consideration with a chemical reaction like those — there is an instant (and explosive) reaction to the inciting incident.
Reacting is usually where you get in trouble when dealing with other people. Flipping the bird at someone in traffic or yelling at a customer service person are emotional reactions based on inciting stimulus. Better to pause and consider a less emotional response.
If You Respond
The art of a good response is taking a pause to consider what actions might be taken — as well what happens next based on the action you decide upon.
Experienced Chess masters careful consider their next move, but they are also considering what happens in future moves based on their decision. They are thinking about their own moves as well as which moves their opponent will make based on the potential options available to them.
Not every instance requires elaborate thought before responding, but some do.
When making bigger decisions that can impact your entire life (career path, buying a home, getting married, deciding to have children) the longer you might take to respond, and it’s certainly warranted. But if you’re deciding between the soup or the salad for lunch, you might not want to wrack your brain over it and simply go with a gut reaction.