In our society, it seems that we have gotten used to thinking that "reacting" is okay. In some ways, we have been conditioned to think we are able to say and do whatever we want just because we are hurting. In my opinion, we have missed a step. We forgot the part where we are always responsible for our words and behaviors, no matter what we perceive that is being done to us. We are responsible for being kind.
What is the difference between reacting and responding? According to Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend in their book called "Boundaries" there is a difference. Reacting is when our emotions are controlling us because we have been triggered in some way. We are not thinking from our rational part of the brain and we stop "thinking clearly." When we respond, we remain in control and with choices. Simply put...When we are reacting, our emotions are in control. When we are responding, we are in control of our emotions.
It is important for us to be learn how to respond so that we "think clearly". Responding is when true change can happen in any relationship. When we react, there is no chance for change from a place of love and understanding.
As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I am trained in the art of communication and healthy relationships. Over the past decade, I have worked with couples and families on how to communicate without any toxic behaviors so that everyone feels safe to be in the relationship. This isn't just about being physically safe; it is being emotionally safe, as well.
Let's about Serena William's reaction to the chair umpire's call in the U.S. Open Finals. This is just one example. There are several other examples from several other people we can use to illustrate how reacting seems to be acceptable. For example, our President Donald Trump and how he handles himself when someone holds him accountable to what he has said or done. I also want to start off by saying I have the upmost respect for Serena's skills on the court. I am in complete awe of her talent and what she has done for the women's world in Sports and Business.
Watching how she reacted to the umpire's call is, in my opinion, a snapshot of how our society thinks it is okay to react in any which way we want because we are feeling upset. Did she have a right to feel the way she felt? Yes, one hundred percent. No argument there because we always have the right to our feelings. No one can take that away from us, ever.
We don't have the right to act any which way we want, though. The healthy response to her behaviors on the court would be to say something along the lines of, "I know I was in the heat in the moment on the court and I felt like I this was the biggest championship I have ever been in. I should not have said the things I said nor threw my racket. That's on me." When she made it about sexism, that was a toxic behavior.
This is so important to understand due to how instead of taking ownership for her behavior, she went and deflected. She brought up how she was fighting for women's rights and how men get away things. This is not about women's rights. Yes, in the past men have gotten away with that type of behavior. Just because they did doesn't make it right for us to act this way now. The way the umpires are feeling is showing that Serena's behaviors made them feel unsafe. This is an example of a toxic environment. Watch this clip.
We are always responsible for our words and our behaviors, no matter what we are feeling. We should expect more from ourselves and others. To me, it is about handling situations with integrity, kindness, and grace when we mess up. This isn't about being perfect. We all make mistakes, we all hurt someone at one point or another or get hurt. This is about self responsibility and accountability. We always have a right to speak our #undeniabletruth. What we don't have the right to do is belittle, shame, gaslight, or name call.
So how do we respond versus react? Here are 5 simple steps.
1. Practice the PAUSE. Walk away when we get triggered.
2. Find a way to get back to center.
3. Figure out what you want to say AFTER you are calm.
4. Speak your #undeniabletruth.
5. If you feel triggered again, repeat steps 1-4.
America, it is time for us to RISE UP.