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Respond vs. React: Torch Talk Recap Blog

One of the key ways to be professional in the workplace is knowing how to control your emotions. In this Torch Talk, we had the amazing opportunity to hear from India Brown, who is a Legacy Leader at Pass the Torch for Women Foundation and is the President of PMPhase. She taught us the difference between responding and reacting to situations you may encounter in your career and strategies to handle these situations professionally.

Respond vs. React

So, what is the difference between Respond and React? 

To Respond means you and the person you’re interacting with have a mutual purpose (completing a task at work, solving a problem, addressing a misunderstanding, etc.) and working together so a solution can be found. Respond is intentional and is a direct reply to a request that is made of you. It lacks unnecessary details that were not asked and addresses the situation.

To React means you are responding with emotions that can stem from preconceived ideas of what you think the person is trying to say and thus can lead to a passive-aggressive reply. 

Respond: have mutual purpose so solution can be found (be intentional!), reply to a request (locate key terms), avoid offering detailed explanations that were not asked, address the situation (request) and not the person (messenger). This is very emotions-oriented.

Emotions can be evoked from life events, insecurities, and self-doubt, but it is important to address why you feel these emotions before replying to the other person. So what are some strategies for controlling your emotions?

Develop Your "Respond" Skill

Developing this skill requires a lot of work and to keep your actions and replies intentional.

  • Critical thinking: understand and focus on the purpose of the request and propose solutions – try to not include opinions or additional details that are not relevant to this
  • Stay professional: stay mindful of your body language, behaviors, and actions when in a professional space and do not let your emotions control you
  • Listen & focus on the person you are speaking with – do not get distracted and really hear what they are saying without preconceived notions 
  • Emotional Control: when you feel your emotions are taking over, take a moment to yourself! Do not let your emotions cloud your judgement. Acknowledge and understand these emotions and what may trigger these emotions so you can work on controlling them in the workplace.

Deactivate Your "React" Button

  • Practice a different behavior – take a moment before responding to think what would be appropriate and is not fueled by your emotions. Also try to look at things from a different perspective 
  • Examine your professional/personal relationships – try to find the mutual gain in the interaction, which should be about what is best for the company. Try asking yourself: if you are not on the same page, why is that? How can this problem be solved? 
  • Self-monitor – be aware of your emotions and understand what may make you emotional

India Brown has also written “Check in with Yourself” that is available for free on the PMPhase website.