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How to Respond

How do you respond to criticism?

How about to compliments?

How about to negative people? To life’s discouraging moments? To surprises, setbacks, beautiful sunsets?


We respond to external actions continuously throughout each day. Most of them you do not notice.

Take for example your drive home from work. If you are like me, once you arrive home you cannot remember anything about the drive. You were on autopilot. Stopping, turning, and changing lanes were all reactions you made without conscious thought. Each action was a response to some external action that you made without conscious thought.

At work, we also continuously respond to external actions. And many of those responses are like driving home; they are made without a conscious thought about the intent and effect of that response.

Leadership Through Response

As business leaders, the people we work with look to us to set the standards. These people turn to us for advice and many times that advice is conveyed through our actions as much as through our words. So, the way we communicate is important. If we are not clear on our goals, our intentions, and our values, we run the risk of communicating the wrong message.

We get to choose how we communicate. And, our communication is rarely neutral. Each choice on how we communicate has a positive or a negative consequence for us at some level.

For example, one of your employees who is notoriously late in submitting their Monday morning weekly report finally gets it submitted on time. You have to choices. You can say “thanks,” and go back to work.

Or, you can take a moment, let them know how grateful you are for their work, you recognize they got the report in on time, and ask them what you can do to help them make this a new weekly habit.

The first response was an autopilot response that many of us make without thinking about our choices that are available when responding.

The second response, although it took more time and thought, will bear fruit in the long run. You were able to mentor an employee, provide reinforcement, and hopefully start getting your reports on time.

We have a choice on how we respond.

Here are several thoughts on how to consciously respond.

  1. Wait for a count of five before responding. When someone provides you some news, pause for a few seconds for your mind to acknowledge just what happened and to formulate a response. For me, by doing this I either come up with a few responding questions, or I’m better about to express my honest feelings.
  2. Quit simply saying thanks and moving on. Each encounter is a moment to be used to mentor, to express gratitude, or to provide follow-up questions.
  3. Be prepared to respond. Life is full of surprises, so you should not be caught off guard when a comment is waiting for a response.

The Bible

1 Peter 3:15 says.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect

It is not easy to always have a ready response. The key is to start thinking of a response couched in “gentleness and respect.” We do not always need to be witty or detailed in how we respond, but we do need to be caring and thoughtful.

Turn off the autopilot and start thinking of every response as an opportunity to teach, mentor or convey your gratitude.