The Peril of Reacting Too Soon

Things happen quickly. Sometimes a bit too quickly.

We’re treated to rolling news coverage, constant friend updates, text messages, and feedback wherever we are. These treats are relatively new. Turn the clock back a few years and we weren’t focused on ‘instant’. The way we interact with the world has changed rapidly.

photo by nathij

photo by nathij

How do you react in this ‘instant’ culture? The danger is that people panic and want to be a part of what’s unfolding. Go away for an hour and the fun is over. So you jump in without thinking much about what you’re doing.

In most situations, no harm will be done. But it only takes one mistake for everything to crash down around you.

Before you react to a situation, whatever it may be, remember these points:

1. Take a step back – Remove yourself from the heat of the situation, even if it’s just for a few seconds.

2. Consider the feelings of others – Is your reaction funny or offensive? Are you jumping in before you have all the information? Do you know why other people did what they did or are you rushing in blind?

3. Consider your own feelings – Is it worth flying off the handle? Are there more important things in life? Do you really feel that strongly about the circumstances or will the emotion die down quickly?

4. Will people understand your reaction? – By hastily blurting out, you risk misinterpretation. Far from helping matters, your speedy actions could make things worse.

5. Reacting on your own? Then speak only for yourself – It’s easy to get carried away as if you’re acting for a whole group of like-minded people. Speak on your behalf, not anyone else’s behalf. And don’t blame others if you make a mistake. Take responsibility for your reaction.

6. Reacting in a group? Then don’t stand out – You shouldn’t get too personal, otherwise a group reaction can quickly become your own over-excitement.
On the other hand, peer pressure and collective actions can make you do things you wouldn’t have done on your own. Don’t get swept up in the excitement and go further than you feel comfortable.

7. Research as much as you can – You may have 50 seconds, 50 minutes, 50 days… Even if you need to react in a split second, always keep a focus on knowing as much as you can about a situation. For instance, on Twitter I spend a few extra moments checking a fact or going to a person’s profile for clarification before I send a tweet. Your time is valuable, but it’s better to spend one minute checking stuff in advance than it is to spend one hour trying to make amends.

8. Do you even need to react? – Ask yourself if a reaction is worthwhile. A lot of the time you’ll probably realise you don’t have to do anything. And if you do choose to react, you will have a greater self-belief in what you are doing, just from briefly assessing your position. This is much better than if you had barged in without so much as a breath.

What do you do when faced with ‘instant’ reaction?