The Correct Response

Being proactive is a good thing in business. Leaders aim to see opportunities early, perhaps before anyone else, and then do something. So long as we don't "jump the gun" (as in the false start of a race), it's usually advisable to be well prepared for action and proceed when we're ready.

Being reactive is not so good. It suggests being driven by events that happened before (as in a chemical reaction), doing things under pressure, in haste, late etc. So if we describe what we're doing - whether it's an issue relating to customers, competition or something internal, such as HR - as a "reaction", it often doesn't sound quite right. It can make us appear unprepared, even if we're not. This then may give an inaccurate impression to others and things just get worse.

Far better to think, and also communicate, in terms of "responses". This is quite neutral language and suggests a more natural action - giving an answer to something in good time, and in a way that's expected. Reacting is frequently the wrong idea, whatever the context, while responding is almost always correct.


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