React vs Respond

These two words are the difference between a thoughtful positive attitude and a reactive negative attitude. When someone offers guidance and direction to you, you need to respond. This means that you think about it, use reason to find a solution and take the appropriate action. When you react to guidance and direction you skip the thinking part and go right to the reaction part, and the results are usually not good. You react in the moment instead of thinking through the process. Learn to respond rather than react to guidance and direction.

In almost every job, there is a person who is in charge of your work performance. That person is known as your manager, supervisor, or boss. Your manager will give you guidance or direction on how to do your job. You will be given guidance on a regular basis, and it is important to learn how to accept and respond to this guidance.

If you are not used to being told what to do or how to do something, responding to guidance might not come easily to you. It might seem like the person giving you guidance is being “bossy” or controlling. Try to respect the experience and skill of your manager and accept their guidance. Your manager gives you guidance to help you succeed in your job.

How you respond to guidance is determined by your attitude. If you have a positive attitude about your job and your supervisor, you will be able to respond appropriately. Here are five tips for accepting and responding to guidance:

1. Follow procedures or steps you should take to do things
2. Ask for help, directions and instructions
3. Accept advice and constructive criticism
4. Acknowledge or recognize experience and skill or knowledge
5. Handle negative criticism politely


Follow procedures. Most companies have procedures or steps you should take already in place for each job. Usually procedures are in place because they have already found that this is the best way to do the job. That’s why it is important to follow those procedures rather than making up your own.

In order to follow procedures, you have to first know what they are. In most cases, you will have an employee handbook or instruction manual that will explain the procedures for your job. Read through this handbook and keep it near you in case you have any questions. You will also likely have a co-worker or supervisor to train you on the procedures for doing your job.

Ask for help, directions and instructions. In order to make sure that you do your job correctly, it’s a good idea to ask for help, directions and instructions from time to time. If you don’t ask, you may waste valuable time doing something incorrectly and have to re-do your work. Asking for help is simple and can be completed in six steps:

1. Determine who to ask for help
2. Think about how to ask for help
3. Ask for help, directions or instructions
4. Listen to the response
5. Repeat the response back
6. Ask questions to clarify the answer

Determine who to ask for help. Think about who would best be able to answer your question and explain the instructions to you. This could be a manager, supervisor or a co-worker in your department.

Think about how to ask for help. Think about what it is you need to ask and form the question in your mind. Thinking your question through before you ask it will help you to ask the question clearly.

Ask for help, directions or instructions. Once you have figured out who to ask and how to ask for help, approach the person and ask for help. State your question clearly and then wait for the response.

Listen to the response. After you’ve asked for help, listen carefully to the response or answer. Pay close attention to the details and to any new instructions.

Repeat the response back. Once you’ve listened to the response, repeat the response back to indicate that you heard and understood what was said.

Ask questions to clarify the answer. If any part of the response was unclear to you, ask questions so you are clear about what to do. You want to be able to go back to work with a sound understanding of what it is you are expected to do.

Accept advice and constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is someone telling you that you did something incorrectly so that you can learn how to do it better. Nobody is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. Keep this in mind as you enter the workforce. It will help you to accept advice and constructive criticism.

Advice and constructive criticism are positive things. Try to learn from it rather than taking it as a negative or an insult. When your supervisor or co-workers give you constructive criticism, listen to what they are telling you, think about their advice, thank them for pointing it out to you and try to follow their advice the next time you do that task.


Acknowledge or recognize experience and skill or knowledge. Especially when you are just starting a new job, most of the people you work with will have more experience than you. Trusting in your supervisor’s and co-workers’ expertise or knowledge will help you to seek out and accept their guidance. The fact that they have been working at the job longer than you probably means that they can give you good guidance. Trust that the people you work with want to see you succeed and will use their experience and expertise to give you guidance.

Handle negative criticism politely. Not everyone you work with will be constructive in the way they give guidance and criticism. You will likely meet someone who criticizes you in a way that seems offensive, insensitive or mean. If this happens, remind yourself that your co-worker is probably just trying to help and accept the feedback. It’s important not to get defensive. You should respond in a respectful manner. If you find the offensive behavior continues, consider talking to the person or your supervisor about it.