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  Management Feature

Responding vs. Reacting

Posted 4/1/2008
By Richard Flint, CSP

It's so easy to react. But responding takes another set of skills that every manager should have.

As much as you may believe a day of your life is controlled by the events, it really isn't. Each event is actually controlled by the choice you make. Each choice you make is created by whether you approach it mentally or emotionally. When you study the behavior of most people, they race in emotionally, examine what they feel is happening, react and then move on to their next crisis.

They fail to understand the damage that behavior does to all who are involved. The "hit and run" method simply leaves people emotionally laying all over the place. From the moment the emotional collision happens, they aren't worth much for the rest of their day.

One of the most important philosophies I have ever written contains only five words - I must respond, not react.

The mastering of these five words is critical if you want your personal and business life to have calmness and stability. These five words can control where and how information enters your life.

You have to learn when you react, you:

  • Refuse to listen

  • Emotionally speed up

  • Attack, rather than address issues

  • Create confusion, rather than add clarity

  • Take people down a negative road

When you think about these five behaviors, how dangerous are they to your business and/or personal life? How much damage can you do when any of these five become your personal presence?

Each and every time you react, you lose control of the environment and turn an opportunity into an obstacle for everyone involved.

So, what are the keys to learning to respond, not react?

Refuse to get sucked in

There are people in your life who know how to push your hot buttons. Their great joy is to help you get upset. They know when that happens, they own you emotionally. The very first step in learning to respond and not react is to know who the "pushers" are in your life. If you are not aware of these people, they will always surprise you with events that will send you over the edge.

Emotionally, stay cool

Each time you feel yourself starting to speed up emotionally, stop whatever you are doing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself: "What can I do to turn this into a positive experience?" If you don't slow down, you will race in, spread your emotions all over the place, leave, and then have created a crisis attached to a crisis. The result is total confusion and frustration. Just make yourself slow down and ask questions, rather than make statements.

Stay focused on the solution, not the problem

This will help you remain calm and focus everyone on resolution and not the problem. Events don't have to be problems; they should simply be concerns looking for clarity. To achieve this, you must be emotionally moving at a pace that allows your mind to be searching for the solution.

I hope you remember that your mind is never confused. At no time is your mind without resolution. The challenge is that you don't allow your mind to have a voice. You are so busy emotionally reacting that you don't slow down and listen with your ears and your eyes. When you don't listen, all you will see is the problem. Problems only exist because you are filtering the event through your emotions, rather than your mind.

Pause and ask questions before you give out information

Time and time again, I have seen people speed up and emotionally react before they had the information necessary to understand what was actually happening. How many times have you reacted and then asked the questions, only to realize your reaction wouldn't have happened if you had asked the right questions first?

A big part of mastering the ability of responding is to gather information. Those who want you to react will feed you just enough to send you over the edge. Don't play their game. Slow down, pause with a deep breath and then ask the questions necessary for you to have all the facts. Only then can you provide the leadership that will lead to resolution.

Offer solutions, don't do it for them

One of the great lessons you must learn is - don't do what others are supposed to do. Each time you allow someone to bring you what they don't want to do, you are going to find yourself in a reactive situation. You know this as well as I do; if they know you will do it for them, they will let you.

The easiest rule to live by is - when they bring you their work, offer them direction, don't add it to your plate. I know that is easier said than done, but you must slow down, stay calm and not be used by one who just doesn't want to do what they are supposed to do.

"No" can be said without feeling guilty

This follows right on the heels of what we have just said. I am amazed at how many people have a challenge with saying "no" without feeling guilty. Somewhere they have been handed a tape that says "no" is something you don't say. When you can't say "no," you become an emotional slave to the one you should say it to.

Reality - saying "no" when it needs to be said is not a negative. Saying "yes" when you should say "no" is the negative. It will make you reactive and give the other person control of your presence.

Don't lose your focus

Retaining your focus is what holds all this together. As long as you are focused, you can remain calm. Lose that calmness and worry will creep in. When that happens, you will react.

Focus means keeping your mind creatively working on the mission at hand. It is what allows you to move at a manageable pace; it is what continues to create the possibilities that feed the positive energy you need to handle the curves in the road. It is what opens you to living in today in order to be prepared for tomorrow.

Editor's Note: This article is one of several management articles that will be contributed to AutoInc. this year by Automotive Management Institute (AMI) instructors. A full lineup of AMI instructors will be sharing their knowledge throughout the year on a variety of topics including training and equipping your staff, goal setting, cross promoting, increasing car count during slow times and much more. To learn more about AMI, its courses and instructors, visit

Richard Flint, CSP, is one of those unique people who has the ability to see the clarity in the midst of confusing situations. Since 1980, he has been sharing his insights and philosophies with audiences all over North America. He is known as the person who knows you even though he has never met you. He has written 11 books, recorded more than 50 CDs and filmed 27 videos. Beyond being a nationally recognized speaker and author, he is a lifestyle coach to many who are seeking to stop repeating and start achieving. He is an AMI instructor and a frequent guest on radio and television talk shows. Contact him at


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