The Difference Between Terms React And Respond In Self-Defense

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If you found yourself in a situation that needs your immediate action, would you respond or react? Now, you may be asking yourself, what’s the difference between the two? Or may think that they are the same terms and are interchangeable. You may understand by now that self-defense and managing violence is primarily psychological or mental endeavor and physical one. If you want to know the definition of the terms react and respond regarding outlook and perspective, please read on. In this case, they are not interchangeable.

Have you heard the word over-responded? We all hear all about over-reactions, but never over-responses. It demonstrates that a response has very little to no chance of being overkill or too much. The reaction, meanwhile, has a high potential of being too much for the situation. Let’s discuss these two things further by establishing what a reaction is.

Evaluated Stimulus

You may think that reaction is a thoughtless act, but it is contrary. In fact, it is often an incorrect action to an evaluated stimulus. Most people believe that a reaction just happens without thought that goes with it. But the exact opposite is true. A person that is highly allergic to bee stings will flail wildly, scream, run or any other such act after catching a glimpse of a bug flying around their head to avoid a possible bee sting when in fact it was just a bug. Now, that person knew ahead of time that if a bee flew by, they would probably do such things. However, they incorrectly evaluated the stimulus as a bee and reacted how they thought would be best to stop a bee from stinging them. What they perceived, not what was happening, dictated their actions. In fact, you could just probably tell them there’s a bee flying around them and get the same reaction, whether what you said was true or not.

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Direct Result Of A Stimulus

On the other hand, a response is a different thing. A response is an action that is the direct result of a stimulus. Even though a response can be done without thought or the result of training, it is typically just enough to accomplish the objective. Taking the same person as an example, they will probably flinch their head slightly back and bring their hands to their eyes when a bug quickly flies into their eye. They did not think about it; they just did it. No time to consider whether it was a bee or not. Their body just responded to the stimulus with the minimum required actions to be safe. No screaming, no running, no flailing. They were just fast, decisive actions based on the specific stimulus to remedy the situation. Now, this is how you want to approach self-defense.

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In case you need to use whatever self-defense techniques, whether they are avoidance/awareness techniques or escape/survival techniques, you want to learn the correct action to the situation, and that is to respond and not to react. It does not mean that you shouldn’t think about what you are doing or what you could do to stay safe. It means that a response should be quick, effective, and directly correlate to the situation. A reaction is usually just quick and it is done out of a misinterpretation of the situation. Responses can be instinctual such as a flinch, like when a bug flies in your eye, or when you touch a hot stove. They can also be trained and ingrained actions that address specific scenarios. Reactions are a loose set of acts being deployed in a situation- inappropriately oftentimes. Now can you have an appropriate reaction? Yes, you can. Can you have an inappropriate response? Absolutely. However, in the uncertain world of self-defense, you must try to put your bets on the result that is more likely to be in your favor. You need to learn how to respond to a situation and not to react. Learning how to respond is crucial to your self-defense plan. Be smart and stay safe always!


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