How to Be Less Reactive and More Responsive

personal development Jan 12, 2022
shocked child

Have you ever been minding your own business, moving through your day-to-day, making a difference when all of a sudden someone or something comes along that hijacks your time, attention, and energy?

Yeah, me too.

I don't know about you, but my default setting is to drop everything and engage to address, fix, or correct. If that sounds familiar, it's not our fault. Human beings are programmed by biology and evolution to be reactive. 

When something unexpected, surprising, or threatening happens, the amygdala (our prehistoric brain) immediately initiates the fight, flight, or freeze response.

But, good news, we can bring in the neocortex (where conscious thought resides) to pause, zoom out, and be more reasoned and responsive.

Here are three questions I employ when someone or something presents in a way that feels like I must deal with right away.

  1. Does something have to be said or done?
  2. Does it have to be said or done now?
  3. Does it have to be said or done by me?

The answer to all three questions must be a clear and unequivocal "yes" for me to respond.

For what it's worth when I'm honest in my answers to the three questions, I rarely answer "yes" to all three. Even when I do, the pause and zooming out help me be much less reactive and much more responsive.*

The next time you collide with an affront, try pausing and asking: "Do I have to say or do something? Does it have to be said or done by me? Do I have to say or do something now?

Scott Perry, Chief Difference-Maker at Creative on Purpose

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