Whether you’re talking with friends, family, romantic partners or even coworkers or employees, how you communicate means a lot, especially when it comes to serious topics or any sort of conflict. But how do you become a more considerate communicator?
It all starts with how you listen—to be a good listener, you should be actively paying attention to what the other person is saying, trying to understand their point of view, and acknowledging their thoughts and feelings, rather than just hearing what they say and waiting for your chance to talk. But beyond that, there’s one small thing you can keep in mind—the difference between responding to something and reacting to something.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “aren’t those the same thing?” you’re not entirely wrong. They’re related, but there’s a difference that can totally change the way a conversation goes. According to Psychology Today, a reaction is instant, emotional, based on your beliefs and biases, and from your unconscious mind—while a response comes slowly, based on information from both your conscious and unconscious mind. That means that reactions are often defensive or survival-based and you might regret them later, while responses are generally more considerate of more than one point of view and thought out.
In short, a response is an action based on logic, while a reaction is an emotional state—and while in some cases a response and a reaction may look the same, the intention behind them, and the consequences that follow them, can be completely different.
Think about what you’d rather face when broaching a serious or difficult topic of conversation. Would you rather the other person react immediately with all of their emotions, or would you rather they take the time to consider your point of view and think it through before giving you a response? (The latter sounds way more appealing, right?)
To be a little more mindful, keep that small difference in mind and actively challenge yourself to respond more than you react—you might find that conflicts are more easily resolved, and tough talks go a little smoother.
Brittney Morgan is Apartment Therapy's Assistant Lifestyle Editor and an avid tweeter with a passion for carbs and lipstick. She believes in mermaids and owns way too many throw pillows.