The Difference Between Responding and Reacting

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The first step to achieving collaboration is to recognise that in every situation we have a choice to react or to respond.

Reacting comes from a place of fear and a need to defend oneself – whether this is achieved by attacking someone with aggression or avoiding a person or situation.

When choosing to respond, you will realise:

  • The matter is not about the person but about a task, behaviour or action, so you will not discuss the situation as though it’s personal for you or the other person. In this way, there is no attack on the person and no judgement of the person.
  • The outcome required is about the future, so there is no need to focus on the past and attribute blame. The past may need to be discussed for the purpose of designing a better method going forward. Your intention is to learn.
  • There is no need to take responsibility for the other person’s reactions. Their behaviour is their choice.
  • In every situation, there are at least two perspectives and that your perspective is not necessarily 100% correct. This is a good reason to start a genuine discussion with the intention to learn about the other person’s perspective.

The lesson here is to make a conscious choice to respond, rather than to react. Responding sets the tone for constructive communication and collaboration which can ultimately lead to a positive outcome for everyone.

If you think your organisation could benefit from communications training tailored to your workplace, contact us for an obligation free proposal on 1 300 227 901 or email

Look for the third blog in this series released in July and published monthly on our website.

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About the Author

Catherine Gillespie brings a wealth of skill to her clients. With particular expertise in teaching communication and workplace conflict resolution skills, Catherine has made a marked difference to the organisations she has worked with. She empowers teams and managers to adopt constructive styles that support harmony, productivity and progress in the workplace.