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Effective Communication Style: Learning to Respond versus React

Written by: Jennifer Moore, M.S.
Effective Communication Style: Learning to Respond versus React

One of the best effective communication skills that I have learned in relationship with others is how to practice responding versus reacting. When we begin to understand the difference between responding and reacting, our self-awareness and ability to self-regulate emotions and behaviors improves. Behavior and communication that is emotion-driven and based on in-the moment feelings is reactionary. Whereas, if we become aware of how our actions and words spoken to others affect the escalation or de-escalation and outcome of interactions we are practicing responding.

It can be helpful to take time to process how the words and actions of another made you feel. Journaling can be useful in this manner by asking yourself questions such as, when I spoke these words back, was I angry? Or was I feeling hurt and in some way wanting to get back at the person for what they did to me? To process this even more and look at the outcome of your reaction- ask how did this affect the feedback you received from the person and what were their actions that followed? What was the outcome on the relationship, and did you get the outcome you desired?

After processing your reaction and the outcome of previous communication, if you find things escalated and left the relationship strained – you can be intentional about needing to take a moment away from the issue, to prevent reacting when one is upset. Prioritize, coming back to the issue when emotions are less heightened. Often, when we react with heightened emotions, we regret what we do and say or feel as if we have over-reacted. It can be more effective to step away when feeling angry. Set a time when you are better regulated in emotions and behavior, to engage in communication and to address the topic of concern.

In the next blog, I will talk about how we can respond in healthy ways, communicate our feelings effectively and ways to deescalate arguments and conversations that are emotionally heightened.