Are You Reacting Reflectively or Reflexively?

One of the significant characteristics of the Discipline Without Stress approach has to do with acting reflectively versus reacting reflexively.

What’s the difference? Consider this example. You are at home and the telephone rings. You answer it.

Assume for a moment that you are NOT familiar with choice-response thinking. If I were to query you why you answered the phone, most of you would say—in one way or another—that the PHONE WAS A STIMULUS AND ANSWERING IT WAS THE RESPONSE.

Now, let’s assume that you are at home watching a television program that you had been looking forward to seeing. You are totally engaged in a scene and the phone rings. Would you disrupt your involvement in the program to answer it?

In this situation, some people would answer the phone—perhaps because they would have acted REFLEXIVELY. Others would let the telephone answering device record the message for them to check the message later. The latter group would have acted REFLECTIVELY.

Answering a phone is a voluntary act. No one forces people to react one way or another to the ringing of a telephone. In essence, the ringing of the phone is simply information.

In the example above, a CHOICE was made to answer or not to answer when the ring was heard.

The first significant characteristic, then, is the understanding that with any situation, stimulation, or urge, humans have the ability to make a choice—either reflectively or reflexively. The stimulus DOES NOT CAUSE the response. In the situation, the ringing of the telephone was the stimulus. It is simply information that one chooses or does not choose to act on.

The problem arises only when—by extrapolation—we assume that the ringing of a telephone, answering the ringing of a doorbell, or stopping at a red light CAUSED our reaction.

This psychology of “stimulus-response” is believed by many as the way to control or influence others. To borrow from Stephen Covey in his “The 8th Habit” (page 16), the “carrot-and-stick motivational philosophy—the Great Jackass technique that motivates with a carrot in front (reward) and drives with a stick from behind (fear and punishment)”—is a poor way to deal with humans … and a poor approach to discipline.