What is a Reactive Attitude?

What is a Reactive Attitude?

The reactive attitude is mainly composed of two branches: on the one hand, a feeling and, on the other, a behavior.

If we go to the emotional part, this attitude is normally generated when we feel anger, shame, sadness, or that our person is being attacked.

The behavioral part occurs after the sentimental experience, among some of its typical expressions you will recognize sarcasm, criticism, and not speaking or ridiculing the other.

What is a reactive attitude for?

Often when we react reactively we do so intending to divert our focus from the unpleasant feelings we are experiencing. The moment I feel ashamed or hurt, connecting with that emotion can be painful and that is why reactive behaviors are put in place to avoid feeling the emotion fully.

It is true that in the short term it can be a useful strategy and it can help us feel better, which is undeniable, but in the long term they end up generating greater guilt and isolation.

Not to mention that attacking the other person’s flaws to avoid feeling attacked also generates an automatic defense reaction on the other side. It is there when the famous defensive loops begin, we could say how the fish that bites its tail, we enter a cycle of constant attack on both sides.

Causes of reactive attitude

At this point it is possible that you feel identified with this type of attitude, that is when we begin to ask ourselves, how we have started to fall into those loops and what has been the cause that has started this ordeal.

Next, I want to list some of the most typical causes of reactive attitude:

  • Have a low assertiveness capacity. If we lack the social skills to communicate assertively, we likely opt for either a reactive attitude or a passive attitude.
  • Reaction when remembering past experiences. Certain situations may act as emotional triggers, transporting us to places and situations in which we have felt vulnerable and our mind reacts with an iron defense to avoid experiencing the same pain
  • Feeling guilty and wanting to hide it. If at any time you feel guilty for something you have done and someone exposes that situation or a related issue, you may adopt this type of attitude to hide what happened
  • Hide the truth. On many occasions, a defensive attitude appears in an attempt to hide the truth about something that we are deliberately lying about.
  • Attack on your personality. If you feel that you need to justify how you are or the decisions you make in your life and you think you are being judged unfairly, you may respond reactively.
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In most cases, being defensive is usually the result of psychosocial causes and interactions rather than biological or genetic. It is a way of moving and relating to our environment in the social context.

Signs that you are reactive

Are you reactive or assertive? It can often be difficult for us to recognize this kind of attitude in our way of acting. We are going to review some of the most common signs of this type of attitude.

We are going to put ourselves in a situation where we are feeling judged and not precisely because of something positive. Observe the following behaviors and evaluate if you feel identified with any of them.

  • Stop listening to the other person or interrupt them.
  • Makeup excuses to justify what you have done.
  • Accusing the other person of doing something similar.
  • Take out the “dirty laundry” of the other person to lower it.
  • Question the other’s feelings.
  • Deny reality or manipulate the situation.

Main thoughts that promote a reactive attitude

There are a series of limiting beliefs that are the basis on which emotional and behavioral processes are based, the reactive attitude is no exception and we can also find a series of beliefs that underlie this type of behavior. We are going to list some of them:

  • Low levels of perceived self-efficacy. Usually, it is due to past experiences in which we have not felt sufficiently recognized or valued. It ends up being an excuse we use not to try harder. More importance is given to the opinion of others than to your own. In one sentence you could express how: “Why am I going to make an effort if they are not going to give the same thing”.
  • Procrastination is the queen of the game. The famous habit of postponing and leaving everything for the last minute ends up generating anxiety and stress, facilitating a reactive attitude.
  • Balls-out. A person with a tendency to this type of attitude will tend to what is known as an external locus of control, that is, they have no or little responsibility for what happens in their life and its results, with ends up generating great frustration.
  • Low tolerance to change. People who do not have good change management skills are more prone to these types of attitudes since any emotion, situation or person can feel like an attack on the person’s comfort zone.
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How to be a less reactive person?

At this point, we have already understood what a reactive attitude consists of, and what its causes are and we have learned to identify the signs that alert us that we are falling into it.

Now … Can it be improved? The answer is yes, several strategies help us improve and feel less reactive.

Specifically, I want to present to you 3 strategies that from my own experience and that of my clients have worked the best for me.

Define what kind of person you want to be

Do you want to be that kind of person? If the answer is no, you must begin to define precisely what kind of person you want to be and how you will behave.

When you identify any of the signs that we have discussed above, for a second, take a breath and count to 10 and ask yourself, How would an improved version of myself handle this situation?

I recommend that before reaching that situation you write a series of responses that you could carry out to have a greater prior preparation.

A cautious man is worth two

I am sure that you have much more knowledge about your personality than you think, for that reason, you will likely be able to anticipate in what type of situations or when faced with what type of comments it is easier for you to enter this type of attitude.

As in the previous case, I recommend that you make a list of the situations and people that are most likely to make you “explode.” Feeling surprised or taken by surprise can make it easier for you to react inappropriately.

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So if you can anticipate when this is most likely to happen, you will be able to plan your reaction and I am sure you will get better results.

Take your share of the conflict

It is normal for us to react almost automatically to certain types of conflicts, especially when we feel hurt or criticized.

An alternative (which is not simple) but is very powerful is to assume part of the responsibility that we have in the situation of the conflict generated.

As the saying goes, two do not fight if one does not want to, therefore, both parties have their share of responsibility.

Recognizing that you play a role in the conflict will help reduce tension and encourage the approach of both positions to seek a common solution.

Rather than immediately reacting to your feelings of feeling hurt or criticized, you can try to take responsibility for whatever part you may be responsible for in the situation.

For example, if you were asked to do something and you didn’t, you could respond by saying, “You’re right, I should have. I apologize.”

Acknowledging that you play a role in the problem will help defuse the situation and allow you to work together with the other person to resolve the problem.

If you must remember something, it is that the reactive attitude is a learned behavior and that all learned behavior can be unlearned. You are not the only person who feels this way and these kinds of reactions are part of human nature.

However, if it is something that is hurting you and you would like to change, I invite you to work on improving this attitudinal aspect and I assure you that you will have a substantial improvement both for yourself and for the people around you.

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