Is Your Club Proactive or Reactive?

By Pam Briggs, GFWC Mediator

How you and your club handle difficult situations can determine whether things function smoothly or whether conflict and chaos take over. We can’t control what happens to us in life, but we can control our response to what happens.

Reactive responses are like a can of soda. Shake them up and you get a messy explosion no one feels good about. Proactive responses are like a bottle of water. Shake them up and they are still calm, cool, collected, and they are a refreshing drink everyone enjoys.

Being reactive is an uncontrolled and automatic response triggered by the situation and ruled by habit and emotion. It creates problems for us and for those around us. When we are reactive, we often do or say things we end up regretting. We give up control and respond with emotions rather than our thoughtful mind. Reactive people want to fix the problem on their own.

Reactive people use words like:

  • It’s your fault
  • There’s nothing I can do
  • That’s not fair

Reactive people and organizations are easily offended and blame others when things go wrong. They seem to always have a complaint. They wait for things to happen and change only when they have no other option. They think only about short-term solutions that often do not fully address the problem.

Being proactive can eliminate issues or prevent them from occurring at all.  When we are proactive we make a thoughtful choice to respond. It allows us to be in control and to tailor our responses to the situation. It is important for clubs to have proactive leaders and members who will think before they act and make decisions based on values rather than emotion.

Effective leaders use proactive words like:

  • I’m sorry
  • Let’s look at our options
  • There has to be a way

Proactive people and organizations think before they act or speak and take responsibility for their choices. They find a way to make things happen by focusing on things they can do something about and not worrying about things they can’t. They bounce back when something bad happens and understand the importance of tapping into the power of those around them for creating solutions. Proactive responses can calm stormy waters and take us calmly and thoughtfully to smoother waters.

Being reactive comes naturally. Proactive responses are learned.

Becoming aware of our tendencies to react with emotion is a first step in learning to have a proactive response. Pause and take a breath before responding. Ask yourself, am I reacting or responding?

Proactive people are happy and positive. Reactive people are angry and hopeless. Take a close look at yourself and your club. Are you proactive or reactive? Make a decision to be proactive. As Abraham Lincoln said, “People are just about as happy as they make up their mind to be.” Make up your mind to be proactive and help your club be proactive.