Learning to Respond Rather than React

When we react rather than respond to any given situation, it could feel like we are the ball in the pinball machine, we get pinged and dinged back and forth, side to side and before we have any time to rebound, we fall down the drain. Sound familiar? If you want to stop bouncing around and get some control in your life, start by acknowledging what you control and by accepting that change comes only from within.

Start first by identifying your triggers. What stresses you out? What makes you react impulsively? Try making a list of these triggers and write down your reactions, being sure to ask yourself how you could have reacted better.

But you can control your thoughts and your actions, and you can change yourself. If you can’t change the outcome, how can you behave differently?

Next, recognize what lies within your domain of influence, what are the thoughts and actions that you can impact and change. You can’t control the world, the economy, nature, or other people, let alone change them. But you can control your thoughts and your actions, and you can change yourself. If you can’t change the outcome, how can you behave differently? Take for example how you might react with anger to an unpleasant situation and challenge yourself to do the opposite of what you’d normally do, consider changing your physical state in order to change your mental and emotional state:  if you’re sitting, trying standing up and if you’re standing, sit down instead. You can try to diffuse an unhealthy reaction by going for a walk to clear your thoughts and then come back to the situation with more clarity. This practice will form into a habit where you’ll learn to respond with less impulse, which inevitably makes you gain more control and release stress. It will also allow you to gain a greater sense of calm and clarity.

To sharpen the saw and continuously get better at managing your stress and reactions, try learning to better manage your time. You can do this by making a list of all your tasks.

Which ones are time-suckers? Which ones can you influence? Which ones require priority? Remember, priority means that there is ONE thing that is absolutely urgent and important, that’s where you need to put your immediate focus. Other tasks that are less urgent can be planned to a later date and scheduled into your calendar, not put on the backburner.

Finally, check-in with yourself often. Look over what you have written down. How did you react to the situation and how are you feeling? Do you see a constant improvement in the way you are responding to a situation or do you still feel like the ball in the pinball machine, stressed and reactive? If so, go back to step 1 and repeat. If you feel that you’re getting better with time and gaining a sense of calm and clarity, that you can reflect and rebound from a heated situation, then you are building resilience and forming a good habit of responding rather than reacting.

So to recap, learning to respond rather than react means that you can identify your triggers, assess what is within your control and take the necessary and timely action. When this becomes a habit, you won’t feel like you’re the ball in the pinball machine bouncing back and forth, you’ll have more confidence to face situations head-on or more resolve to accept them for what they are, to adapt and move on.


Mohamed Hammoud
Mohamed Hammoud
Mohamed Hammoud is a dedicated and driven community leader who believes that diversity is a fact, and inclusion is a choice: this is why he strives to break down taboos and misconceptions by using emotional intelligence to shift the landscape and create a positive impact. As an executive with a London-based tech company and a private consultant in leadership development, diversity and inclusion, Mohamed is a multilingual facilitator and engaging keynote and TEDx speaker, media commentator, and community activist. Mohamed is committed to progressive community-building and has served in various capacities as a board member to different not-for-profits and community organizations. He has recently been appointed as Chief Learning Officer with New Canadian Media in an advisory teaching and mentoring role leading NCM’s efforts to diversify the pool of candidates of journalists capable of working in Canadian newsrooms. A contributor to various media outlets, including the CBC and the London Free Press, and an award-winning Toastmaster, Mohamed recently gave a TEDx Talk about identity at the Awake and Aware TEDx Conference in Traverse City, Michigan. Working tirelessly to advocate a message of community inclusion through acceptance and diversity, Mohamed brings his ambition and drive for making positive changes to the Canadian multicultural community.

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    • Agreed, we never really arrive but we are always treading that path to improve how we do it. I’m glad you enjoyed it Kimberly.

  1. Welcome and thank you for debuting an interesting topic with common sense suggestions.
    There is no doubt that we must learn to control our reactions, avoiding to react in an impulsive way.
    The reaction is instantaneous, guided by the beliefs and prejudices of our unconscious mind; it is oriented towards survival and, to a certain extent, it is a defensive mechanism. It could help us cope with that moment, but in hindsight, we can realize that the consequences far outweigh any advantage.
    On the other hand, an answer comes more slowly. It is based on information received from both consciousness and the unconscious and will be more adaptive, in the sense that it takes into consideration what could prove most useful not only for ourselves, but also for those around us. The results of this are shown in the long run and allow us to remain faithful to our values.
    In some cases, he may also resort to a sense of humor, or give an answer that reveals all our indifference or play the card of self-irony.
    I hope to read you again.

    • Thank you for sharing your insight and for pointing out that our responses can indeed by tied to our values.

  2. I welcomed you on LinkedIn but would like to do it again here. I’ll be sharing your article on my Facebook Page and LinkedIn Company page as I believe the points are so relevant to existing conditions in our world. So important to respond rather than react!

  3. Welcome again, Mohamed! As someone who is a relatively new BizCat, you will find this to be an amazing and supportive community as Len eloquently stated it. Thank you for your article. As someone who is a therapist and speaks and writes about the resetting mindset to get unstuck, I appreciate your thoughtful article. Thank you!💖

    • I’ve been writing for a while and hoping that I could share the message with a broader audience with the intention of making a positive difference. I’m glad that I can do that here. Thank you for showing such appreciation on a Monday morning, it’s uplifting!

  4. Mohamed – Welcome to the BC360 family. Here you will find encouragement for your writing, respectful engagement from followers, and hopefully, you will gain new online friends. Your first post is a super way to introduce yourself.

    • Thank you Len, so glad to be part of an engaging and positive group of like-minded people. I look forward to learning and growing as much as sharing.