1. Understand Why It’s Important Not To Be Reactive
We have all replied to that email a little to quickly. You are most definitely not alone in having said something and immediately regretting it. Even the best of us react at times without thoroughly thinking things through. Unfortunately, some more than others have a tendency to be more reactive in responses. This often leads to negative consequences. That email you hastily sent off had an abrupt tone that your supervisor did not respond kindly to. That heat of the moment angry response to your friend quickly turned the disagreement you were having into an argument. When you felt guilty about saying no and agreed to help your friend move, you bit off more than you could chew.
2. Learn How/Why We Respond To Things
The first step in learning to be less reactive is to understand what happens when we have a reaction to something. See below:
Trigger → Thought → Emotion → Body Sensation → Behavioral Urge → Behavior
When something happens (trigger), we have an internal reaction (thoughts, emotions, and body sensations such as tensing muscles or rising heat). Then we experience an urge to outwardly react (behavioral urge). This can look like wanting to verbally reply, walking away, sending an email response, etc. We can have multiple urges at once, sometimes. Maybe we want to yell at someone but also want to strike them physically in response to their verbal insults, for example. Then, depending on who we are and how we handle situations, we then actually react or engage with the situation outwardly (behavior). In this way, we have actually made the choice to and begun to yell at our friend or whomever.
3. Slow Down!
All of the above can and typically does happen in a matter of seconds, sometimes shorter. By beginning to notice and be more aware of how the above process plays itself out in your day to day life you can start to gain more control over managing your responses. Even if you are able to only slow down to 10 seconds, that’s still much improved over the 1-5 seconds you took to make decisions before. It’s also possible you may come to the same conclusion slowed down that you would behaving in a more reactive manner. However, the benefit here is that you have been more thoughtful and careful in considering your response and can be more assured that it is one you won’t regret.
Please keep in mind that communications via email over the internet are not secure. Although it is unlikely, there is a possibility that information you include in an email can be intercepted and read by other parties besides the person to whom it is addressed.