Moving from Reaction to Response

an article by Lucy Harrison, founder of the Harrison Network and author of ‘Soft Skills for Tough Jobs’


I used to be a rubbish listener.

I was less interested in hearing about the problem than offering a solution.

‘Fixing’ things, or finding ‘solutions’ was how I added value – it was my job as a consultant and was the role I most usually played as friend, parent and partner.

But by fixing it for someone, I was offering my expertise, my experience, my amazing thinking. I was not helping them develop their expertise, experiences and thinking.

When my other half struggled with dealing with trauma, I wanted nothing more than to fix it for him. But it didn’t help. In many ways it made things worse; worse for him, worse for our relationship and worse for the situation we found ourselves in.

It wasn’t until I made an intentional choice to shut up and ‘just be there’ that things started to improve. I chose to respond differently. It helped the conversation, the situation, him and our relationship.

Through this experience, I discovered the difference in the outcomes of a conversation when I approach it as ‘Lucy’s hardwired reactions’, to when I approach it as ‘Lucy’s intentional response’.

Before that choice, I was locked in the Reactive Loop. My approach was on autopilot and I was reacting according to usual patterns. These reactions led to a low quality of conversation. Poor conversations impacted on the state of our relationship, which in turn led to reactive thinking and poor decisions that, of course, gave us poor or inconsistent results, which made me react more… and so on.

When I changed my approach, I moved into the Intentional Loop. One conversation at a time, I became more intentionally present for him, concerned more for the long-term outcome than fixing the immediate issue. My presence improved the depth and quality of our conversation, resulting in a more positive relationship. This in turn gave us the space to think more effectively and make decisions that improved the situation. The better results meant I was less frustrated, so had more wherewithal to continue to approach the conversation differently.

The more I examined these two loops, combining the intentional and coaching approaches, the more I noticed there were common threads weaving together in all the best conversations, in all the best strategic thinking, in all the best team relationships.

Over the course of ten years of experience and practice, I honed these threads into the NALED™ framework, which is a simple and effective way for you to improve the results of your interactions with others.

But the simplest and most important message of this is, if you are going to be there for someone, be there intentionally. Is your usual reaction helping? If not how can you change it, become more intentional in giving a response, not a reaction.

You know that when you are at your best, you can do this. As you become more intentional about your approach, you can be your best more often.

Today I am a better listener. I don’t always get it right (of course), but I try to be more intentional in my response and practice every day.

Back to blog