Live lightly Education

Respond, not react

How often have we reacted to a situation dramatically and been embarrassed? How often have we spoken without pausing to gather and frame a thought first? Often, our own reaction has deeply hurt us or a relationship. At its core, a reaction has occurred from a loss of awareness of emotions — a disconnected impulse when we were unable to relate to our emotional ebb and flow.

The opposite of reactivity is a responsive, deliberated, gentler action guided by responsibility. As in the coinage, it is born off an ability to respond. The practices of pause, reflection and introspection gives space to a capability to relate and remain connected to our response in an emerging situation. Pausing before responding is the practice of turning inward to familiarise with internal status and connect with what we know rather than what we feel — to enact a response conducive to the well-being of everyone involved. This kind of empathy with our emotions helps us embody honesty and to respond with wisdom and consideration. Without internal empathy, we resort to easy reactivity, which is blinding at its core and hurtful in its wake.

Reactivity and jugaad

This process of internal-appraisal before we begin to respond is a kind of disciplined planning and preparation to act. Here, I want to draw a parallel with jugaad, the Indian version of improvisation on the spur-of-a-moment, a distant cousin of reactivity, devoid of the goodness of planning and preparation. While the clever bravado inherent in jugaad often leads to wins and adulation, the fumbles and failure of jugaad often go unspoken. While jugaad refers to winging-it for quick, actionable results, reactivity refers to unprepared emotional response, often intense and uncontrolled. Both are characterised by an absence of appraisal, planning and preparedness.

There are differences, however. The benefit of jugaad includes both the threshold and ease with which individuals improvise a solution that, even if short-sighted, delivers a win for the near-term. The nature of a jugaad solution, however, disqualifies it as a learning or best practice, as no distinctive template can be generated from a reactive process. As for emotional reactivity, at any threshold of the emotional experience, it feels out of control and overwhelming and leaves us feeling inadequate.

Another positive for jugaad is that, when pressed for a solution, one is bound to use instinct and presence to deliver a practical and winning idea. Reactivity loses to jugaad as it totally overrides any intermission of deliberation or access to inner wisdom, before the reaction.

Trusting reactive impulses lacks responsibility and assumes that you don’t need to take a pause or initiative or take strategic decisions in life; that you can merely go where life takes you and react to what happens, sometimes with positive outcome, and more often with untenable outcomes and disappointment. Pushed to choose, jugaad will get you out of a bind, however short-limbed and reactive it may be; but reactivity will most possibly put you in a bind. The question is, why would you choose to react when you can simply pause, reconnect with your emotions and respond from an equanimus state.

The writer is a freelance writer, blogger and life coach.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2020 12:53:41 AM |

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