Respond More, React Less
“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction,
plus a social media overreaction.”
Respond More, React Less is, in many ways, the entire ScreamFree message. It’s also an important section in our new online platform, Choose Your Own Adulthood. The platform has editions for High School and College Students, plus one for young adults in the workplace, but it’s practical wisdom we all need. Here’s an excerpt:
In our era of instant electronic connection, people are freaking out more than ever. Quick, unthoughtful, cruel tweets. Trolls online, filling up comments pages with instant negativity. Couples breaking up because one of ’em took too long to reply to a text. (She hasn’t texted me back, and it’s been over 20 minutes! She must be cheating!)
Used to be, a hundred years ago, when people traveled by train or boat, the loved ones left behind would have to wait days or weeks to hear from their dearly departed. Word would finally come through a carefully written letter. And then they would, upon much reflection, craft a response letter back. Contrast that with today. Now people rush to flip out their phones as soon as the plane touches down, ’cause heaven forbid their loved ones go a minute more without knowing if the flight went down in flames.
Emotional reactivity is on the rise, and it’s everywhere. It’s what makes for great reality TV, that’s for sure. But in true reality, it makes for pretty bad relationships. Just like when a body reacts to an allergen, people can react to a perceived threat, or slight, by choking off any future possibilities. That’s the real power of reactivity—it usually creates the very outcomes you were hoping to avoid.
Learn to respond more, and react less. What’s the difference? A response is thoughtful, while a reaction is an automatic reflex. A response is careful, while a reaction is careless. A response is measured—informed by education, experience, and an estimate of its immediate and long-term effects. When we respond, rather than react, we actually communicate from our highest principles and deepest desires. Reactions, on the other hand, come straight from our most shallow anxieties and fears.
Peace begins with pause,