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Learning to Respond to people and situations instead of reacting.

“You are not allowing me to do what I want, you are a mean mom”

R1: “How can you call me mean? After I have done so much for you. I am doing it for your good only. You will understand when you grow up”

R2: “Is it? Give me five minutes. I would like to talk to you about it.”

“Your mom was rather nasty to me today. Did you observe or were you blind and deaf when we visited her today?”

R1: “When will you stop attacking my mom. You have done this from day one. It has become your habit and pastime to do this. I am really sick of your attitude”

R2: “I am driving. I would like to discuss this. Let’s go home and talk about it”

“Whenever your mom falls sick why do you have to be the one to run all the time? What about your other two sisters? They are also daughters, why don’t they take some responsibility?”

R1: “She is my mother too. What is wrong with going when she is not well? Won’t you do it for your parents? One rule for you and one rule for me is it? Don’t drag my sisters into this.”

R2: “That is a fair question and I too want to address that. Let me go now to the hospital and in the evening we can discuss this and how to handle it in the future.”

Harsh statements from people around us are common in all relationships. Statements that accuse us, statements that hurt and statements that try to put us down and make us feel bad. There are two ways of answering such questions and statements. Reacting and Responding. R1 in each of the situations above is reacting and R2 is responding. Most of us are wired to react to such statements. Our hurt, humiliation and anger envelop us and we immediately tell the first thing that comes to our mind. Our reaction triggers a further reaction in the other person and soon we will have a slanging match in the house.

Responding on the other hand is answering without defending our actions or taking down the other person. Responding is actually a way of defusing a potential bomb by buying time. We do not take the bait. We do not fall for the trap. We do not personalize what the other person has said. Whether it is our children, spouse, parents siblings friends or colleagues, we acknowledge what they have said, not get into an argument at that point and give a specific time when we will discuss it again. We take the control back into our hands by setting the agenda fresh.

It takes time, awareness and effort to learn to respond to people instead of reacting to them. Reacting is hardwired in us. To resist that needs that we train ourselves. It will not be possible in all situations and with everyone in the beginning, but with a constant awareness of what we are doing and pausing for a few breaths before answering an accusation, we teach ourselves to respond and not react to people around us. Responding is certainly a more mature way of dealing with the situation and it keeps us calm and in control of ourselves. It needs one person to be mature to deal with arguments and hot situations. We can choose that to be us.

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