Introduction to Responding versus Reacting

Quick Summary: Near instant access to events causes many of us to react instead of respond to it.


The statement that news travels swiftly seems to be an understatement with our always-on cell phones, broadband Internet connectivity, and 24-hour news channel access.  It seems that news travels instantaneously instead.  Unfortunately, in many instances the news is actually only raw data with very little context. Somehow, many of us feel compelled to react to the news rather than first thinking through its underlying meaning and formulating an appropriate response.

Our instant access to information and disinformation has resulted in the tendency to react to events as opposed to respond to them.  Actually, we often find ourselves reacting to recently received data with very little details or context. Without factual context we simply cannot turn the received data into actionable information.  We see the results of this phenomenon almost daily on the 24-hour television news channels.  Unfortunately, the pressure to be the first to report an event often gets in the way of factual reporting, which generally takes longer to sift through the details to place the data into its rightful context.

The so-called “Eisenhower Principle,” named after President Dwight D. Eisenhower and advocated by many time management thought leaders, provides a simple but highly effective method of keeping reactions in check.  It involves categorizing issues based on them being urgent or important.  Actually, there are four categories based upon combining the two characteristics:  urgent and important, urgent but not important, not urgent but important, and finally, not urgent and not important.  Convenient but perhaps simplistic definitions of the terms are:

Important Issues:  Critical to meet one’s goals

Urgent Issues: Critical to meet someone else’s goals

As described in the articles in this chapter, we quite often feel it necessary to react to events that others label as urgent when, in reality, they may not be important to you or perhaps even the initiator.  The articles and their abstracts included in this chapter are listed below.

Chapter Sections and Summaries

  1. The Reaction Trap

Smartphones, always on email, and the 24-hour news cycle have all contributed to the apparent need to react almost instantly to any situation.  However, few situations truly require immediate action.

  1. Initial Reaction

When an event occurs, the immediate action should be to carefully plan the thoughtful response to the situation.

  1. Responding

Develop a response plan, and then step back and re-think it.  It doesn’t take much time; ask “Are we sure?”

Chapter Articles and Summaries

Introduction to Responding versus Reacting


Near instant access to events causes many of us to react instead of respond to it

What's the Difference


We often react without considering factors; when we do, we are more likely to respond.

Responding or Reacting: How Do You Know?


Reacting can become addictive and inappropriate; can you ignore your cell phone for an hour?

Interrupt Driven Impacts


Jumping from one activity to another is inefficient; there is really no such thing as multitasking.

Stop, Look, and Listen


Taking a deep breath implies stopping for a moment to think, not filling up the lungs to scream.

Fast But Thoughtful


Many times speedy responses are made without reasonable deliberation of facts.

Is Culture the Problem?


Practice makes permanent; consistent reactive behaviors can become the norm.

Deliver Bad News Quickly


When the answer is clearly known, in most cases it should be delivered quickly.

Response Formulation


Take the time to ask a few others to help you develop a reasonable response.

Jog, Don't Sprint


Slow and deliberate may be much faster than quick if it avoids false starts.

The Root Cause and The Route


Find the route that led to the root cause and eliminate it.


Article Number : 4.020101   

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