react or Respond

Do you react or respond?

Do you know the difference between Reaction v/s Response? Have you ever noticed – What do you do when you are in problem? Do you react or respond to a problematic situation? Let’s first talk about difference of reaction versus response. Some people often use the words as synonymous but to me there’s a big difference between these two. A reaction and a response may look exactly alike; but those two are different, let’s first understand what the difference between these two scenarios is?


A reaction is an instant behavior. This comes immediately and based fully on emotions and feelings at that particular moment. It’s driven by the biases, beliefs and prejudices of the unconscious mind. When you do or say something “without thinking,” that’s the unconscious mind controlling you and running the show.

A reaction is based in the moment and doesn’t take into consideration long term effects of what you say or do. A reaction is basically survival-oriented and to some extent a defense mechanism. It might turn out okay sometimes but more often a reaction is something you regret later.


A response on the other hand generally comes more slowly. This involves some thought. It’s based on information from both the unconscious mind and conscious mind. A response will be more balanced, meaning that it takes into consideration the various parameters and impact on interested parties. It weighs the long term effects and stays in line with your core values. This is often delayed but rational and based on reason and emotions.

“When I look back on my knee-jerk reactions now, I realize I should have just taken a breath.”  ~ Fred Durst

In the majority of circumstances people react without understanding the situation and without predicting the outcome. This is because much of their lives is spend in reaction to others and events around them. As I said earlier reaction is more of defensive mechanism, reactions are based on fear and insecurities whereas responses on other hand are understanding the situation and deciding the best course of actions.

Reactions or responses are also based on our past experience. Sometimes; I have observed that if same statement or sentence is been spoken by two different friends/people, then we might react on one and respond to another; that’s all because of our past experience.

Do you react or respond?

To understand the basic difference between these, I would like to share with you a speech given by Sundar Pichai – an IIT-MIT Alumnus and Global Head Google, where he shared a short story what happened in a restaurant.

 Sundar Pichai Speech (Cockroach Theory)

At a restaurant, a cockroach suddenly flew from somewhere and sat on a lady.

She started screaming out of fear.

With a panic stricken face and trembling voice, she started jumping, with both her hands desperately trying to get rid of the cockroach.

Her reaction was contagious, as everyone in her group also got panicky.

The lady finally managed to push the cockroach away but …it landed on another lady in the group.

Now, it was the turn of the other lady in the group to continue the drama.

Do you react or respond?

The waiter rushed forward to their rescue.

In the relay of throwing, the cockroach next fell upon the waiter.

The waiter stood firm, composed himself and observed the behavior of the cockroach on his shirt.

When he was confident enough, he grabbed it with his fingers and threw it out of the restaurant.

Sipping my coffee and watching the amusement, the antenna of my mind picked up a few thoughts and started wondering, was the cockroach responsible for their histrionic behavior?

If so, then why was the waiter not disturbed?

He handled it near to perfection, without any chaos.

It is not the cockroach, but the inability of the ladies to handle the disturbance caused by the cockroach that disturbed the ladies.

I realized that, it is not the shouting of my father or my boss or my wife that disturbs me, but it’s my inability to handle the disturbances caused by their shouting that disturbs me.

It’s not the traffic jams on the road that disturbs me, but my inability to handle the disturbance caused by the traffic jam that disturbs me. More than the problem, it’s my reaction to the problem that creates chaos in my life.

Always respond

Lessons learnt from the speech which has been now become famous with the name cockroach theory of self improvement is – You should not react in life. You should always respond. The women reacted whereas on the other hand waiter responded. Reactions are always instinctive whereas responses are always well thought of. You should always respond to the situations, problems and challenges in life.

Also read: How to stay cool or calm in difficult situations?

End Result

Weather you react or respond to an external stimulus also decides the end result and in case of response the end result is always best because all the parameters and impact on interested parties were taken in to consideration. The first woman’s reaction cased chain of people getting disturbed, whereas the response of waiter ensured the other people does not get impacted.


Most of the relationships get bitter due the reason that people react to the incidents, events and situations instead of respond. People in relationships get uncomfortable with what is being said or done, and they react. Since the emotions are integral part of relations whenever people emotions are hurt they react and it make the situation worst. You should always give a pause and give some time before giving response.

Do you react or respond?

Regardless of what we are experiencing… adversity or good times….. you can purposefully choose to respond rather than react. Not only this, you can purposefully set your perspective. You may respond on your terms rather than react impulsively.

Over to you now, have you ever experienced a situation in life where you feel that you should have responded rather than the way you reacted? Share with us in comment section your experiences and views on how reactions and responses can change the life?

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