Now Reading
React vs Respond: Understanding The Difference

React vs Respond: Understanding The Difference

Updated on May 27, 2022

Reviewed by Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD , Certified Psychiatrist

React vs Respond - Understand The Difference Between React & Respond

You are in the middle of a conversation when someone tells you something provocative? What is your first reflex? Will you react or will you respond? If someone finds it difficult to answer this question, the reason could most likely be the ambiguity surrounding the debate on react vs respond.

The first step to elaborate on the difference is to understand the definition clearly. 

React vs Response Infographic

React vs response understanding the Difference
React vs response understanding the Difference

What does reaction mean?

The reaction is usually quick and often followed by little or no thought.

A reaction is quick, almost instant as we pointed out previously. This means you have barely given it a thought. For instance, a study reveals how we take less than a minute to judge a person when we see them.

Most likely, your mind is not evaluating your actions or their impact when you choose to react. Simply because you are not giving it time to do the evaluation!

Simply put, responding and reacting is a result of a totally different mindset. For instance, the reaction is instantaneous, rarely preceded by some concrete thinking.

A response, on the other hand, is the result of more careful thought. In some situations, the reaction is okay but in most cases, it is dangerous. 

This is because the reaction that one gives is not evaluated. A reaction is often based on the moment. One does not invest the effort to think about the outcomes while reacting.

Therefore, it brings a possibility of negative outcomes. The reaction-political or social- is often met with an equal and opposite force.

We often react without understanding the other person’s views or situation. This is how problems arise.

What does the response mean?

A response is a well-thought action through which the mind chooses to reply to a situation or a circumstance.

Of course, a response is a result of a thorough evaluation of the situation at hand. But more than a response is the result of taking inputs from the conscious and the subconscious mind before choosing to act.

There are many situations when a reaction and an emotional response may appear to be very similar. But even in these cases, the reaction and response will feel different. This is because a reaction is like the first response to a stimulus.

It is like the defense mechanism of the body. The body is naturally wired to react to any situation that it is a part of. It is more like a catalyzed chemical reaction. 

The feeling while giving a response is extremely different. For starters, one needs to calm the mind before preparing to respond. As soon as the mind is calm, it generates the ability to comprehend the inputs coming from the conscious and subconscious mind.

The next stage involves weighing the pros and cons. This is done to understand the maximum number of possibilities of responding to the situation.

At this stage, the individual is likely to think about the other person’s feelings and the impact that his or her response will have on them.

After all, responding requires you to take into consideration the well-being of everyone involved. 

Now imagine a scenario that is the exact opposite of the one that led you to react. In this case, you decide to take the time to evaluate the matter.

Accordingly, you decide on your action and even go to the extent of understanding its impact. With all this calculation, you choose to act responsibly. This is a response.

React vs Respond – 4 Differentiating Points

Apart from the time involved, there are a few key traits that can help you understand the difference between reaction and response. In the article that follows, we will help you do so.

1. Reaction is emotion-driven, response is well-thought

Unlike response, the reaction is heavily driven by the emotions that you experience while in the middle of the situation. We are not saying that response is an emotion-less action. Of course not!

Just that response is the result of thorough evaluation so when you respond, you can calmly keep aside all the emotion.

2. Reaction is aggressive, response is calm

Imagine a situation when you are arguing with your colleague and he abuses you. You are most likely going to experience an impulse to hurl back an abuse. But ask yourself, would that be the right thing to do?

Your unconscious mind may fuel your anger through pre-judged notions. However, once you sit back and evaluate, you get a chance to step into the other person’s shoes and understand their actions. This gives you an opportunity to respond more accurately.

3. Reaction fuels disagreement, response helps resolve it

The instant reaction that we give can lead to a lot of discomfort in a relationship. Since it is usually based on assumptions, you will find it difficult to justify your actions in this phase. The response, on the other hand, is more likely to help you resolve a conflict.

4. Reaction weakens you but response empowers you

The minute you start taking into consideration the well-being of everyone around, there is a higher possibility of making empowered decisions.

Needless to say, these decisions are beneficial in the professional as well as personal life. On the other hand, the reaction can usher the consequences that you are likely to regret later.

The urge to react is always strong and instant. The first step to learning to respond accurately is to control this urge.

How not to react

From the minute we step out of bed in the morning, each one of us has to choose between reaction and response. More often than not, a lot of us end up reacting because we do not have the time to respond!

Before the mind learns how to respond, it is important to learn how not to react. So, here are a few tips on how not to react: 

1. Do not react aggressively

Even if you are right, the other person needs not always be wrong. When you react aggressively, it spells bad news for you as well as the person on the other side. For starters, you are accumulating negativity by choosing to react aggressively.

This is usually a no-filter reaction so the person on the receiving end will not see any value in the conversation.

2. Do not react without thinking about the other person

One should always take into consideration the feelings of the other person while reacting. How will your reaction impact the other person? The answer to this question actually ends up deciding the future of your conversation.

3. Do not react without being aware

Be completely aware of the situation before reacting. You may not be able to do a thorough analysis but it is still important for you to be aware of all the elements involved.

4. Do not react when you are angry

Anger is an extremely powerful emotion. Therefore, you should avoid reacting if you are angry. It usually clouds your ability to make responsible decisions. In most cases, the individual ends up regretting the reaction later.

5. Do not react when you do not need to

Sometimes choosing not to react is a reaction in itself. You need not react to every situation. Some things are just for your information and can be ignored. If you choose to react even in such scenarios, you are likely to end up making a fool of yourself.

React vs Respond: Which is better?

Now that we have understood the difference, the obvious question to come to our mind is which one is better. Should I react or respond, what is a better option?

This question becomes even more challenging because a reaction and response appear very similar in nature but there is a difference. 

However, the two feel extremely different. For instance, because the reaction is instantaneous, it barely has any feeling associated with it. Reactions are driven by your belief. But these beliefs are not always based on logic.

Sometimes it is just heresy, prejudice, and an underlying assumption that fuel a reaction. Therefore, it is dangerous. Simply put, the react vs respond debate does tilt in favor of responding. 

Response takes input from our consciousness. This means that it takes into consideration situations and implications that may not be a priority for the mind. There is a whole process involved in identifying the logically correct response for a situation.

Of course, the process takes time but it yields extremely positive results as well. Teaching the mind to apply logical reasoning to identify the solution of each situation will only strengthen its ability to think.

React vs Respond examples

Examples are often a great way to understand any concept. Even in the case of the react vs respond debate, here is a look at a few examples to evaluate the concept. 

Example 1

When a child breaks something, the parents’ first reaction is to scold him or her. The child is reprimanded for his or her behavior. But take a step back and try to figure out how scolding helps the child.

There is a possibility that the scolding will lead to the child developing a fear of repeating the action. But has the child understood why he or she should not repeat the action? 

In cases where the parents react instantaneously, the children will never understand this logic. However, if the parent lets the anger cool off and responds to the situation. The child will learn better.

This is because the response will involve explaining the repercussions of the action to him or her. Therefore the child develops awareness and consciously avoids repeating the action.

Example 2

Your co-worker is constantly rude to you. The immediate urge is to reciprocate with the same rudeness. The result is a working environment that you hate to be a part of. An exact opposite of this situation is when your response is to ignore the rudeness.

Do your bit and help your co-worker wherever possible. The indifferent attitude on your part will positively impact your coworker as well. He or she will gradually realize their mistake and stop being rude. They may simply stop for the lack of reaction. 

In React vs Respond – Why is responding better?

If you learn to overcome the impulse to react, you stand a better chance to make good decisions. Learning to respond actually empowers you to be a better person in life. The learning phase is not an easy one.

You will need to be patient and connect with the conscious mind to harness its energy. Gradually, this will teach you to evaluate your unconscious associations and align them in accordance with your moral values in life.

How to learn to respond

We have already established the advantages of responding. At a very basic level, it helps you evolve into a better person – both professionally and personally. Here is a look at a few simple tricks that can be used to train the mind to respond.

Remember that reaction is an impulse and like the first defense of the mind. Therefore, it will take some effort to teach the mind to let go of the reaction and work towards preparing a response. 

1. Spend some time alone

This is one of the best ways to teach the mind to calm down. A well-coordinated response can only come from a peaceful mind. Therefore, this is a very helpful technique.

Spend this alone time meditating and achieving inner peace. Look beyond the routine worries and see the larger purpose of life. 

2. Just breathe

To avoid an instant reaction, just take a minute to breathe. No matter what the situation is, take deep breaths and let the urge to react pass. This is just a matter of a few seconds. Once the urge is gone, your mind will be in control. Therefore, you will be able to respond in a better way. 

3. Look for logic

The best response is the one backed by detailed logic. In the search for logic, one automatically learns to evaluate all parameters involved. This results in an apt response to the situation. 

4. Evaluate your actions

Make it a habit to evaluate your actions at the end of the day. Ask yourself if there were any situations where you overreacted? Did you choose to react out of anger or out of logic? It is important to understand the impact of each action on the basis of these parameters.

Learn from such instances. This will teach the mind the importance of choosing to respond overreacting. 

Also, watch this interesting video to understand “How not to React” –

Train The Mind To Respond, Not React.

Take-home Message

The path to leading a responsible life is difficult simply because the urge to react is always very strong. But each time you experience this urge, you need to take a step back and think/evaluate your action.

This will teach you to respond correctly and over a period of time, it will help you evolve into a happier person.

React vs Respond FAQs

What is the definition of react?

A reaction is quick, in most cases, it is instant and rarely preceded by any thought process. This is the simplest definition of react. The problems begin to arise because we choose to react to a situation without understanding the person on the other side. Unfortunately, this does not hurt much until you are at the receiving end.

What is the definition of respond?

The exact opposite of an instant reaction is a carefully thought response. When you control the urge to react immediately, you are actually giving it a chance to carefully evaluate the circumstances. Based on this evaluation, the mind will recommend the best possible response. This is broadly the definition of respond.

How do you control over a react?

Learning how to control how you react requires patience and consistent effort. Each time you get charged up to react instantaneously, you need to calm your mind and divert your focus. This simple trick helps you buy more time to evaluate the matter and respond in the best possible way.

4. How do you respond rather than react?

Reacting vs responding, it is important to know the difference and act accordingly in different situations. If you want to learn how to respond, you need to evaluate situations logically. The simple trick to do so is to be strong and consciously avoid the impulse to react.

What does respond instead of reacting mean?

What you believe drives your reaction. But your response is driven by your belief and has a logic to support your action. Also, since the action is justified by logic, you are less likely to hurt the sentiments of the person on the other side.

Article Sources


Scroll To Top
We use cookies in order to give you the best possible experience on our website. By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies.
Privacy Policy