It is quite helpful to recognize our reactivity and responsiveness, and the difference between the two, specially when we make judgements about others. And to illustrate this, two incidents come to mind. A friend who had been holding workshops for fifteen years in a college as an external resource was asked to meet the incoming director over lunch. He reported that not much happened; there was more silence than exchange. There was a certain coldness in her manner, an unease in the air. Not everything needs to be spoken to be understood. As it turned out, and was later confirmed by someone, she had taken an immediate personal dislike toward him, and then and there had decided to terminate his long association, discounting the effectiveness of work carried out over so many years.The next encounter happened to me. I had met and discussed my consultancy work with the human resource development manager of a large oil company. For several months afterwards I did not hear from him. Then one day came a call, and soon our programmes began that went on for five years, in the course of which a friendship developed between us. One day, many months later, he confided in me something that has stayed with me till today.He said, “At our first meeting, I felt I did not like you. Later, I studied the material you had given me, and thought I did not have an experience of your kind of work,” adding that he did not want his personal feelings to colour his judgment and unknowingly lose what could be a valuable contribution for his colleagues.“I realized that I needed to set aside my feelings and not come between you and the good of the organization.” In the next breath he added how right he thought that decision had been.When we put these two incidents side by side, the contrasts loom large. We notice that the first case was the result of reactivity or inability to overcome personal feelings. The decision in the second case is one born out of responsiveness.The nature of reactivity is such that it leaves hardly any gap for reflection. Without pausing to gauge what he may be capable of, we tend to dismiss a person. Whereas in the case of responsiveness, there is a pause to weigh the options; a delaying of judgment that carries seeds of impartiality. Responsiveness comes from a place of maturity and involves a certain overcoming of egoic or impulsivereactions. One could call the reactive types blockers or hinderers, but a more appropriate word is debilitators or bridge breakers. In contrast, we have bridge builders who open opportunities; the facilitators. In a deeper sense, there is this push-pull of like-dislike or rag and dvesh which is the cause of several unwholesome decisions.By Homayum Taba
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