How to repair your relationship by responding versus reacting
October 8, 2021

responding versus reacting in retirement

In an ongoing effort to improve our relationship, Mark and I were made aware of a communications hiccup that we seem to run into at times. We tend to react to one another instead of responding, and it can make for some bumpy challenges in any relationship. We did some research to learn more about the importance of practicing the art of responding vs. reacting during a conversation and the steps to learning a new way of engaging with one another that we thought you’d find helpful. 

Let’s get to know the two types.


Reactions are often conditioned responses to past experiences. They don’t have a lot of thought or feeling behind them. They are often negative emotions or an urge where sometimes your unconscious bias just comes out. Reactions can fuel emotions, aggressiveness, and defensiveness. When reacting, you tend not to give the reaction consideration or awareness, you just naturally do it without a lot of thought. Of important note, an individual’s non-reaction can be equally alarming and may also make things worse.  


When you respond, it comes from a place of care, concern, and is often quite calming.  This well thought out place allows you to let go of the past.  Responding takes a lot of effort, patience, communication and understanding, however it often brings you to a better outcome and relationship.  

During your retirement years, you may suddenly find yourself spending a lot more time with one another which can create an over-comfort in careless communication styles and unnecessary reactions, thus leading to hurt feelings. No one wants that in their relationship, and there are simple ways to keep yourself from overreacting and jumping to conclusions.  

What steps can be made to change up your communications to begin responding more appropriately? 

Step 1 – Practice the pause. 

Step 2 – Curb the urge to react.  

Step 3 – Wait for the appropriate time to develop a thoughtful response.

Step 4 -Monitor your non-verbal reactions, limit hands in the air, eye rolling, biting your lip, etc. 

Step 5 – Respond accurately, keep the emotion at bay.

Step 6 – Use facial gestures to show sincerity in your reply.  

Stress can also change the intention of a reply from a response to a reaction. It’s important to seek ways to reduce the stress in your life. Think about what the habits, routines and rituals in your life that help you reduce stress. Maybe reading, meditating, exercising, or eating healthy help you feel more balanced. It’s also important that if you or your partner are feeling stressed that you communicate that ahead of any conversations.  Sometimes the awareness of stress may help your partner know that this might not be an ideal time to be communicating.  

We have some work to do in our household to practice the pause, however just taking the time to review these simple techniques have given us great motivation to learn more about finding our ideal communication rhythm to improve our relationship. 

Tell us in our Facebook Community, do you tend to respond or react when communicating with your partner, friends or family? What has worked for you in improving your communications with others?