They might seem like one and the same, but responding and reacting in a conversation are very different when you break them down. If you want to practice being a better listener, responding is the better course of action.
A reaction is a fairly common habit to have when you hear something that alters your current state of mind. If the person hasn’t finished their thought, however, you could end up interrupting or even saying something you regret. Kathy Rapp at Inc. suggests it’s always better to respond instead:
Respond, don’t react. I love this mantra and keep it top of mind, especially when I know I’m about to hear bad news or something that could upset me. It’s perfectly normal to want to spout out the first thing that hits your mind, but in most cases you’re better off to take a second to digest the content of what you’ve just heard.
Even if something greatly upsets you—or even excites you—blurting out the first thing that comes to your mind doesn’t make it seem like you’re listening. Instead, it makes it seem like you were waiting to pounce on the first sign of trouble. Listen, let them finish their thought, ask clarifying questions, and—after you’ve really thought about what you want to say—calmly express yourself. People like it when they think they’re being listened to, so it can only benefit you.
Photo by Quinn Dombrowski.