Response or Reaction?

automatically body book conversation feel flight mode human implement indicator jump limbic system mindset prefrontal cortex quickens react reaction respond response workplace Dec 01, 2021

Most people are very familiar (in an uncomfortable way) with the reaction space. When you can feel it in your body – that sick feeling in your stomach, your pulse quickens, your blood pressure elevates, maybe your neck or shoulders begin to tighten… That sort of rising feeling when you know there’s going to be a problem with a situation.  You can feel yourself starting to become defensive and starting to try and protect yourself.

What happens when you're in that fight or flight mode, is that your body automatically operates as though there's some kind of life or death threat in front of you. Our brain automatically wants to react, and stops functioning rationally.  Then our “gut reaction” comes from your limbic system, those parts of your brain that are more tapped into the reptilian sort of behavior that you might have had many, many years ago as humans.

Even if the threat is only imagined or perceived, your body still goes through this physiological process, which is an indicator that you are in reaction, not response.

So one of the tricks to becoming a more evolved human being is to understand how reaction works, and to be able to step back and gain some perspective.  This allows you to make a different choice and choose to respond. Response comes from your prefrontal cortex, a place of consciousness and intention - you have to be conscious when you're responding, you're intending to create space between whatever's going on in front of you.  

When choosing to respond, you need to learn to recognise the symptoms of reaction, so that when we start getting those symptoms, we can take a step back. Then you can consciously say to yourself, “In this situation, what is the best response that I can make? I make this particular response, what sort of outcome am I likely to get?”  And that way, you can choose from a whole variety of responses that you can make.

The situations you find yourself in can vary significantly - whether you're having a face to face conversation with someone, or when you're in a meeting situation, and you're feeling a bit stressed, and you want to sit back and disconnect and disengage a little bit so that you can implement your prefrontal cortex. There's a lot of different scenarios in business and in workplaces, where you might choose to implement your response over your reaction.

If you're interested in this kind of mindset information, then you might be interested in my book, where we discuss this topic in detail. We talk through a range of different mindset strategies that can make your life better and make it easier for you when you're in the workplace.

Remember you can book a chat with our team anytime, if you'd like to discuss how this kind of education can help you.