There may be a slight difference between the words react and respond. Yet, in practice, there seems to be a gulf of difference.

React in action.

When people react, it seems to be defensive. We seem to be at a disadvantage. We are uncomfortable with what is being said or done, and we react. In our reactions, our emotions take a central role. The hair on our neck stands on end. We feel our stomach turn. Our face heats up and our defenses are on red alert.

We know reactions when we see it. In fact, some people on the other side will intentionally stoke the fires, especially when they know we will react. They know if they poke we will coil up and be ready to react in a full way.

There is a downside to reacting. We let emotions without reason drive us forward. We lose control. Reacting is sporadic and emotional.

The upside may be passion, but our passion needs to be centered on purpose, not an unexpected, unproductive stimulus.

Respond in action.

On the flip side is respond. There is still an external spur to our response. Responding, though, is more thoughtful. Responses contain reasoning.

The difference may be this: Responding is guided less by emotion and more by logic.

Responding may be passive in nature, as we are going second in a series. However, a response is more active, and it can change the direction of an interaction.

The upside of a solid response is an engaging conversation, all positive and all civil. We learn. We grow. We listen. We respond. We act forthrightly and from within.

The mindfulness difference.

Respond vs. React - A Mindful DifferenceIf mindfulness is being more centered within and aware of others, then this is a practice we need to embrace to prevent reacting and focus on responding.

Mindful outlines several articles to begin these routines. Let’s apply these mindfulness practices to responding. To respond in a more mindful way, these four steps may help:

Step 1: Breathing

Maintaining evenly-paced breathing is essential, an in and out reasonable rhythm. By focusing on our breathing, we will bring our thinking under control. We may eliminate thoughts that gear us up, releasing them with each breath. By focusing on our breathing, we regain our concentration.

Step 2: Awareness of body

With each breath, we become more aware of our body. We bring our heat of the moment under control. We raise our attention on our face heating up, our palms getting sweaty, and our ire being raised. With focus on our breathing, we also bring our body into a steady state as well, calming our systems down.

Step 3: Releasing tension

With each breathe and raised awareness, we bring ourselves into control and release tensions. We let go and become more centered in who we really are and want to be. Releasing tension returns us to our principles and calmer ways of interacting.

Step 4: Raising attentiveness

As we maintain our inner calmness and strength, we listen to what is being said more intently, and we watch the way in which it is being said. We become more aware as we formulate our response. Our raised attentiveness enables us to respond more thoughtfully and, if needed, begin to direct the exchange in a direction of collaboration or more productive areas of discussion.

I am new to mindfulness.

Yes, I am a newbie but, in thinking about reacting versus responding, I see the value. It is easy to be pulled into reacting, and it takes more effort to respond. However, with mindfulness practices, I believe exchanges can be more productive and greater integrity can be maintained.

Being mindful in our responses ensures integrity in our interactions. Absence of mindfulness will raise the likelihood of emotional reactions and unproductive arguments. We need to gain control through attentiveness and awareness, centering ourselves to lead our conversations fruitfully, honestly, and fully.

What are your experiences on maintaining mindfulness in the heat of a conversation?