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A reaction is instant.

It’s driven by the beliefs, biases, and prejudices of the unconscious mind. When you say or do something “without thinking,” that’s the unconscious mind running the show. A reaction is based at the moment and doesn’t take into consideration long term effects of what you do or say. A reaction is survival-oriented and often a defence mechanism. It might turn out okay for now but often a reaction is something you regret later.

A response on the other hand usually comes more slowly.

It’s based on information from both the conscious mind and unconscious mind. A response will be more “ecological,” meaning that it takes into consideration the well-being of not only you but those around you. It weighs the long term effects and stays in line with your core values.

The point is that the more reacting we do, the less empowered we are.

To get to that point where you pause and then respond, you need to spend some time working with the unconscious, helping it release the limiting beliefs, constrictive assumptions and negative emotions that no longer serve you.

The main thing to learn is mindfulness and the pause.

Mindfulness means watching ourselves when something happens that might normally upset us or trigger some kind of emotional reaction. Pay close attention to how our minds react.

Then pause. We don’t have to act immediately, just because we have an internal reaction. We can pause, not act, breathe. We can watch this urge to act irrationally arise, then let it go away. Sometimes that takes a few seconds, other times it means we should remove ourselves politely from the situation and let ourselves cool down before we respond.

The Pause.

Watch the reaction go away.

Now consider what the most intelligent, compassionate response might be. What can we do that will help our relationship, teach, build a better team or partnership, make the situation better, calm everyone down, including ourselves?

At first, you might mess up. But in time, you’ll learn to watch this reaction, and you’ll get better at the pause. Step out and look at yourself and the situation from a distance. Don’t fret if you mess up — just resolve to be more mindful when it happens next time. Take note of what happened to trigger your reaction, and pay attention when something like that happens again.

Be mindful, pause, then consider a thoughtful, compassionate response.

Practice the pause!

“When I look back on my knee-jerk reactions now, I realize I should have just taken a breath”

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