Responsibility - Response-ability - ability to respond and react the way you want

As a guy who's really involved in the field of personal productivity through a web app, pdf magazine and a video blog, I'm reading (and listening to via audio) many books on this subject. When listening to one of the sets by Stephen Covey he talked about the ways we respond to people and events... and that we can decide how to respond...
He said that we as humans have responsibility - response-ability - an ability to respond.
How many times people / events / situations are making your angry / upset / nervous every day?
We tend to believe that whenever something like this happens to us, we have to react in the most natural way for us - for example we react with anger to anger... we say: "I just had to shout at this guy, he shouted at me!"
We can choose the way we respond to stuff - we can be response-able
From the audiobook I listened to (I don't remember the name of it, sorry, it was a while ago and I've listened to many audiobooks recently, when I find it I'll update the post, I promise) they quoted a study made upon people who survived concentration camps. They found out, that while some people gave in easily and surrounded to the scary and you-can-die-tomorrow environment, others were living OK, accepting the scary reality around them but being beyond it.
If you want to know what I'm talking about, watch the movie "La vita e bella"
Anyway, these people were not crazy, they just chose to react differently. To respond the way they wanted.
DIY - to test it try next time someone makes you angry
I know, it sounds really strange, but do it - just drive your car, get into the traffic jam and don't let people in other cars upset you as they normally do. Take deep breaths, think of something different... anything. React differently.
Think different - don't use default reactions - choose your response.
It's not easy, I'm still struggling, but try to choose your response and your reaction - don't let other influence your response and don't let yourself spin into an anger-anger chain reaction.
And it's not only about someone making you angry... it's also about some unexpected event, something good/bad happening... and theoretically we can always choose our own response.
Question: Are you reacting or choosing response to events? Did you manage to control it? Or do you just go with the flow?

Posted on Thursday, November 12, 2009 (life,productivity)

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Niels Warnecke
Nov 13, 2009 08:46
This is, what Viktor Frankl discovered while beeing jailed in KZ by the Nazis: That there is no by nature given automatism on how we treat and react on life, circumstances and so on. By braking the automatic impulse-reaction-mode and replacing it with a "impulse - thinking about - ACTION"-Mode we are in a situation, where we can handle every situation. Frankl found, that no matter what is happening to you, your brain and your soul are free to think. So in his case he decided to not share his situation longer with his treaters, but to imagine about life after KZ. Place here is to short to mention the whole story, read about his life - and read his books.
Michael Sliwinski
Nov 13, 2009 12:01
Niels, thanks a million for your great comment!
You mentioned something I forgot to write about in my blog post:
We're used to automate our reactions and we break the mechanism that you mentioned:
1. impulse - 2. thinking - 3. action
We "cut" or "shorten" the path by skipping the "unnecessary" thinking process and in the end we react not in the way we want, but in the way others want us to react.
This makes us very vulnerable to manipulation.
Today in the morning I was driving in a traffic jam and had a series of moments where the drivers were pressing me or horning or shouting... and I refused to react the same way... and it felt great!
Thanks for mentioning Viktor Frankl, I'll go ahead and try to read more about him.
Niels Warnecke
Nov 13, 2009 12:48
Michael, it was a pleasure to fill the missing link ;-) I made the same experience: It is astonishing, what a deep breath and few seconds of re-thinking the situation can do für your reaction. In fact, reaction becomes "planned action" - great!
Michael Sliwinski
Nov 13, 2009 13:07
Niels, again you've nailed it:

1. Action
2. Deep breath
3. Quick thinking and assessing the situation
4. Planned Reaction

Deep breath is a very essential part here. So what it comes down to is this:

Action - Planned reaction

This is how it's supposed to be, right? Let's keep on practicing now!

Really cool, again thanks for contributing (and keep on doing so) - together we've managed to cover the subject a lot better, great!