Reactive? Responsive? One usually hurts, one usually helps heal…

by Rod Smith

Get out of the middle!

Get out of the middle!

Reactivity in relationships (short-fuse living, attacking, failing to listening, assuming you know what others are saying anyway, harboring damages, gossiping, transmitting unhelpful or damaging information, being sarcastic) usually hurts others and our relationships.

Responsiveness, on the other hand (embracing and listening to what others are saying before responding or acting, allowing the full story to be told without making judgments, holding onto ourselves in the face of trouble or anxiety and the anxieties of others, not falling when all the other dominoes are falling) usually helps heal others and our relationships.

Yet it is important to realize that responsive people or those persons whose behavior is usually characterized by being responsive, did not get there by sheer willfulness or determination. Becoming a “non-anxious presence” is the result of the long, and often very slow work of making peace with every possible relationship and human connection (past and present) a person has. Reactivity (anxiety) and Responsiveness (non-anxiety) are not willful choices but rather the product of individual journeys.

Finally, reactive behavior and responsive behavior are not “bad” and “good” respectively. A person can be display both. A parent can be viciously reactive if a child is threatened (appropriate) and yet warm, nurturing, and protective toward the same child all in an instant.

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